MS Society calls for legalisation of medicinal cannabis and dispels 5 myths

Legalise medicinal cannabis is the call of the MS Society as it tries to persuade the UK government to act. And, as part of its campaign, the society is seeking to dispel some popular misconceptions. It has also produced its own report on the use of medicinal cannabis in treating MS.1

Oomsn its website, the society says that with so much information “swirling around the internet”, it’s hard to be sure what’s true and what’s not. That’s why it decided, in its own words, “to bust five common myths about cannabis and MS”.

These are the misconceptions that the society has highlighted:

1. ‘Cannabis for medicinal use’ means any kind of cannabis

This can be confusing, as the media often refers to both licensed cannabis products and the illegal drug as ‘medicinal cannabis’.

What medical professionals usually mean by ‘medicinal cannabis’ or ‘medical cannabis’ is cannabis products licensed as medical treatments. So, for MS, that means Sativex, which is specifically licensed to treat muscle spasms and stiffness in MS. Journalists or other people using the phrase could mean cannabis used for any medical purpose.

We’re calling for the Government to legalise cannabis for two medicinal purposes: to treat pain and spasticity when other treatments haven’t worked.

2. Cannabis has never been legal for medicinal use

This isn’t true. Thanks to the evidence, countries including Germany and Canada have already made cannabis available for medicinal use, and Ireland is considering it.2 This means people in those countries can get it safely on prescription and be confident about the quality and doses of what they’re taking.

We want the UK Government to do the same, so people with MS can treat their symptoms safely.

3. Smoking cannabis is as safe as taking Sativex

medicinalWrong – evidence shows that smoking cannabis can be harmful to people with MS, especially when it’s mixed with tobacco. Unfortunately, smoking has also been shown to speed up how quickly people develop secondary progressive MS.

As cannabis is illegal there’s no guidance about doses or quality either, so you can’t be sure if what you’re smoking is safe.

4. Cannabis is natural, so it’s better than pharma drugs

That’s not how it works. One of the main active ingredients in cannabis is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). THC is ‘psychoactive’ and can do lots of things – including alter your mind and make you hallucinate. If you or your family have a history of mental health problems (such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder), using cannabis can trigger these or make them worse.

5. Cannabidiol (CBD) products will help my MS

CBD is the other active ingredient in cannabis. It’s not psychoactive like THC and has anti-inflammatory, anti-tremor and anti-spasmodic properties.

At the moment, there’s not enough evidence to show that products containing just CBD, like cannabis oils, can help MS symptoms. And currently there are no CBD products licensed to treat MS symptoms.

But the evidence shows that cannabis containing both CBD and THC could work for some people with MS to help with pain and spasms. It is thought that the ratio of THC to CBD determines the level of psychoactive vs. therapeutic effects of cannabis.

That’s why we think the UK Government should change the law to make cannabis available for medicinal use to help people with MS treat pain and muscle spasms, where other treatments have not worked for them.

I have never tried cannabis in any form, so cannot give any recommendation one way or another. However, I have looked into the issue and can say that I’d be prepared to give medicinal cannabis a try.

1 Cannabis and MS – The role of cannabis in treating MS symptoms.

2 The use of cannabis has been legalised in more countries than the society says, as well as some US states.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

Symptoms of MS can show years before disease itself

For once, I am pleased to know that I am not alone. Researchers in Canada report that people with multiple sclerosis can show symptoms of something wrong five years before disease onset. This is much earlier than previously thought, but just not as early as my own experience.

Let me explain. My first indication that all was not well was in the mid-1980s and doctors were concerned enough to order a lumbar puncture (spinal tap). However, for whatever reason, the result was negative. Doctors said don’t worry, it’s nothing serious.

Almost 20 years later, following further symptoms and new concerns of mine, I had more tests.  These showed I had MS, and the neurologist told me that he had gone through my medical records and found evidence of MS more than 25 years earlier. So, it looks like the 1980s’ lumbar puncture was a false negative.

The Canadian research, published in Lancet Neurology, and reviewed by Science Daily, is a first step toward identifying red flags. These should help doctors screen for the disease and start interventions earlier.

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Dr Helen Tremlett of the University of British Columbia.

“Proving that people with multiple sclerosis have already changed their behaviour in the five years before even the earliest medical recognition of the condition is very important. It means we have to look beyond those five years to understand how it is caused,” said Dr Helen Tremlett. She is senior author of the study and an associate professor for neurology in the department of medicine at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health.

Symptoms well before MS recognized

The researchers examined health records of 14,000 people with multiple sclerosis over a 20-year period and compared them to the health records of 72,000 people without the disease. This study showed there is a phase where people show symptoms before multiple sclerosis is medically recognized.

“There’s something going on here that makes this population of people unique,” said José Wijnands, first author of the manuscript. He is a postdoctoral fellow and a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research trainee.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Features Writer with Healthline, the fastest growing health information site. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

Let’s Compare MS Symptoms, and How We’re Handling Them

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We all know, because we have heard it so many times, that MS is not the same for everyone — that no two people have exactly the same combination of symptoms.

symptomsThat got me thinking the other day (pause for call-outs or derision) about the number of symptoms there are, and which ones I have to deal with.

As a start, I headed over to the website of the U.S.’s National MS Society. I found an imposing list of 22 symptoms. But how many affect me? What do I do about them? And how do you manage yours?

Fatigue – Oh, yes, this can knock me off my feet. But since moving to Spain, it hasn’t affected me. It might be the more relaxed lifestyle.

Walking (Gait) Difficulties – Probably the most visible part of the disease for me. My left side is affected, making walking difficult. I am pleased to say that my Vitamin D supplement appears to be helping me around the house and walking short distances. Fewer falls, too. Over longer distances, I still need a wheelchair — the great folding lightweight power chair I bought.

Numbness or Tingling – Yes, mostly in my left hand. I cannot use that hand to hold anything.

Spasticity – Having looked up the definition, I seem to have been spared this.

WeaknessYes, mainly in my left knee but, again, apparently improving with Vitamin D.

Vision Problems – No, fortunately nothing yet.

Dizziness and Vertigo – A difficult one to answer, but I’ll try to explain. I rarely suffer from dizziness, but my balance depends on being able to see around me. In darkness, I am much more likely to lose my balance.

Bladder Problems – Yes, both infrequency and urgency. These are controlled mainly by medication, but if I’m going where public restrooms may be difficult to find, I wear a pad to be on the safe side.

Sexual Problems – Perhaps the most difficult symptom for many to discuss. Ok, so here goes: Yes, I have sexual problems linked with erectile dysfunction. But I still have a full and fulfilling sex life. How? Easy, Lisa and I talk. We understand each other’s needs and we both end up happy.

Bowel ProblemsThat’s me, but no risk of incontinence here. Constipation is my problem. I take laxatives to overcome this.

Pain – Fortunately, no. Nothing beyond aches and pains that can affect everyone.

Cognitive Changes – Not in the slightest. Just as alert, aware, and understanding as ever.

Emotional Changes – No. I am emotionally stable, calm, virtually worry-free, and happy.

Speech Problems – None, apart from an English accent.

Swallowing Problems – None. You serve it, I’ll swallow it (as long as I like it).

Tremor – None.

Seizures – None at all, but I take a daily dose of anticonvulsive medication because I also have epilepsy. Even so, no seizure for more than 40 years.

Breathing Problems – Yes, shortness of breath if I try to do too much. I find that sitting down gets me going again soon.

Itching – Occasionally, particularly after going to bed.

Headache – Extremely rarely, probably less frequently than many people without MS.

Depression – Never! Life is worth living, so live it.

Hearing Loss – Eh, what? No, seriously, Lisa says I have bionic hearing.

So, how are you getting along with your symptoms?

This article, written by me, was first published by Multiple Sclerosis News Today.

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ian-skype_edited50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who is Managing Editor (columns division) of BioNews Services. BioNews is owner of 50 disease/disorder-specific news and information websites – including MS News Today. Ian has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

 

Worry Less to Reduce Unnecessary Stress

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Stress is like a light that turns on when you need it. But when you can’t turn it off, you run the risk of burnout, which can impact your health, according to the U.S. National MS Society.

I often have said that I don’t suffer from stress. But, looking back at my life, there are examples of stress that weren’t recognized at the time.

stressIn fact, everyone suffers from stress from time to time, but when you have a chronic disease, such as multiple sclerosis, it can be bad news. The NMSS says: “Chronic stress weakens the immune system and increases the risk for a number of illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes, and depression. Most research studies about the effects of stress on MS have been inconclusive, but one recent study by David Mohr, PhD, at the University of California, San Francisco, found significant increases in MS relapses following stressful life events.”

Stress adds to our everyday burden and often can make MS symptoms worse. We all need to relax more and not let things get on top of us. So, what can we do about it?

First, we need to worry less. Some worry more than others. In my case, I have a simple attitude about worry. If a problem rears its head, there are two possibilities. One, it’s something I can fix, so I do. Two, it’s something I can do nothing about, so I wait until it comes to its natural conclusion. Either way, there is no point in worrying.

It works for me, maybe you’d like to try it, too.

There is no point in worrying out about things you can’t actually achieve. Instead, focus on what you can do and do well.

Most of us have things we’ve done in the past of which we might not be very proud. But it’s in the past and not worth worrying about. It is time to live for now and the future; put the past behind you, where it belongs.

Fatigue takes its toll on many us and I’d say that most people don’t realize what that is. They think we are talking about being tired. However, those closest to us know the truth and will readily accept that we feel too bad to join in whatever has been planned. They also know that you cannot always go out to dinner or whatever. To avoid undue pressure and stress, we all need to learn that it’s OK to say “no.”

There are those who say that exercise is good for us and that it helps to de-stress us. No doubt that’s true, but exercise is not possible for everyone with multiple sclerosis. It all depends on individual capabilities. That’s why it is essential that we each choose an exercise program that we can follow and enjoy.

One last thing: It is important to exercise our minds, as well as our bodies. Quizzes, puzzles, reading, a hobby – these all help keep our minds active.

This article, written by me, was first published by Multiple Sclerosis News Today.

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ian-skype_edited50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who is Managing Editor (columns division) of BioNews Services. BioNews is owner of 50 disease/disorder-specific news and information websites – including MS News Today. Ian has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

MS, Combined with Flu, Had Me on the Floor Again

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MS, Combined with Flu, Had Me on the Floor Again

One thing we do know, though, is that influenza can make us feel worse. MS Society sites around the world agree the flu pushes up our temperature and can make symptoms flare up. And, for those who experience relapses, an infection like the flu can trigger one.

Having progressive MS, relapses are not part of my life, but my symptoms certainly can flare when I am hit by an infection.

And that is exactly what happened over the weekend when I finally succumbed to the same flu that my wife had been suffering from for a few days.

I suppose my two most obvious symptoms are problems with mobility and balance and these certainly were much worse at the height of infection. I fell getting out of my armchair and again in our bathroom, both times taking many minutes to get back onto my feet as my strength deserted me in my time of need. If it had not been for the physical help provided by Lisa, my loving wife, my time on the floor likely would have been much longer.

After my second fall, she insisted that I sit in our bathroom chair, which is on wheels. Although still unwell herself, insisted on pushing me between living room, bathroom and bedroom. She said her motives were a little selfish as it was easier to push me about than help me recover from another fall.

Flu jab protection?

So, if the flu can have such a bad effect, should we take advantage of the protection offered by have the annual flu jab?

Well, when I lived in the U.K., I used to follow the advice of doctors and the country’s MS Society that recommends that people with MS have a seasonal flu jab every autumn. It says: “This is before the flu season starts around November. But it’s still worth having one later than that. Carers and partners can get a flu jab too.”

But that is in the past. No more jabs for me.

Why the change? Let me assure you that it is nothing to do with efficacy of the vaccines or their general safety for most people.

Instead, it is all about their safety for me. Regular readers may recall that in October I spent time in Moscow having medical tests at the A.A. Maximov center that provides HSCT treatment, including patients with MS and other autoimmune diseases.

There is no need to go into detail of what went on, but one of the key findings was that my MS lesions are all inactive and the recommendation made by Dr. Denis Fedorenko, MD, to minimize the risk of reactivating them, was that I should have no vaccines. None at all, not even the flu jab.

I want to emphasize that this is NOT advice for you. Everyone is different. Make sure you get our own medical advice.

This article, written by me, was first published by Multiple Sclerosis News Today.

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ian-skype_edited50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who is Managing Editor (columns division) of BioNews Services. BioNews is owner of 50 disease/disorder-specific news and information websites – including MS News Today. Ian has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.