Epilepsy, MS patients swear by marijuana - study

June 06, 2004

, Reuters Health

Close to half of all epilepsy and multiple sclerosis patients in Canada have tried using marijuana although few of them believe it helped their symptoms, researchers reported on Monday.

About one in four epilepsy patients and one in six multiple sclerosis patients surveyed said marijuana was an effective treatment for their disease symptoms, according to the surveys published in the journal Neurology.

Marijuana can be legally prescribed by a doctor in Canada and is provided to patients by Canada's health service.

Dr. Donald Gross of the University of Alberta in Edmonton and colleagues surveyed 135 epilepsy patients and found nearly half had used marijuana in their lifetime and that one in five had used marijuana in the past year.

And Dr. Mark Ware of McGill University in Montreal and colleagues surveyed 205 multiple sclerosis patients and found 34 of them, or 16.5 percent, were using medical marijuana but just half of them thought it worked effectively.

'We have learned several things from these patients,' Ware said in a statement.

'Firstly, that pain and spasms are not the only reasons for use, and the effects of marijuana on mood, sleep and stress are important areas of therapeutic need and should be addressed in clinical trials. Secondly, there is a wide variance in doses used, ranging from single puffs to more than a gram at a time.'

Gross said marijuana could be considered an alternative or complementary therapy.

'Studies suggest one-third of the general population use alternative health care on a yearly basis,' Gross said in a statement.

'Not surprisingly, patients tend to look to alternative therapies in situations where conventional medicine has been unsuccessful, in particular, for chronic medical conditions.'

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