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Monday, May 14, 2012

Smoking Medical Marijuana Helps MS Patients, Study Says

Posted By on Mon, May 14, 2012 at 3:41 PM


A common critique of medical cannabis is that there's no way anything "smoked" can be beneficial to someone of ill health.

This simple and convenient theory -- smoking (tobacco) is bad, therefore anything that can be smoked must also be bad -- was recently repeated by former White House drug czar John Walters. "Pretending smoked marijuana is medicine ... will end badly," Walters wrote in an op-ed titled "Why Legalizing Drugs Is a Bad Idea."

It appears listening to doctors and scientists is also a bad idea, at least for Walters. Smoked marijuana -- that is, cannabis delivered in its crudest form -- proved an effective medicine to sufferers of multiple sclerosis surveyed in a UC San Diego School of Medicine study.

Researchers gave real joints and sham ones to a group of 30 MS sufferers, and found that the ones lighting up real green experienced less spasticity and less pain. The pot smokers also experienced "adverse cognitive effects and increased fatigue," according to a UCSD release. Guess it wasn't sativa.

Medical research into medical cannabis' efficacy is nothing new in California, which has a taxpayer-funded research arm. The UCSD study is the University of California Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research's fifth published study on the drug's legitimate medical value, according to a university release.

In the study, 30 patients with multiple sclerosis were divided into two groups. One group was given marijuana joints, and the other were given placebos. Under the supervision of Dr. Jody Corey-Bloom, each smoked one joint a day -- real or fake -- for three days. Then the groups switched tonics, real to fake and fake to real.

The cannabis users reported less pain and less spasticity. They reported increased mobility -- and some "mild effects on attention and concentration," according to the study.

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law. The Drug Enforcement Administration classifies marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning it has no medical value and a high potential for abuse. Drugs like cocaine are classified Schedule II. Some cannabis-derived medicines, like synthetic THC, are Food and Drug Administration-approved.

"The study by Corey Bloom and her colleagues adds to a growing body of evidence that cannabis has therapeutic value for selected indications, and may be an adjunct or alternative for patients whose spasticity or pain is not optimally managed," Igor Grant, MD, director of the CMCR, said in a statement.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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