Muscle spasm is the involuntary contraction of muscle, caused due to loss of electrolytes, dehydration, and muscle strain. While there are various cures for muscle spasm, recent years has seen the rise in the use of cannabis to cure muscle spasms. Throughout the ancient ages, cannabis was widely used to cure spasm related condition. In fact, Queen Victoria in the 19th century used a marijuana tincture recommended by her physician for her menstrual cramps!
Muscle spasms could be the result of various debilitating diseases such as cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, Tourette’s Syndrome, and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. Injuries to the spinal cord or stroke can cause muscle spasms easily. A research paper titled, Marijuana as Medicine? The Science Beyond the Controversy shows that cannabis can be an effective treatment for spasms and other associated debilitating conditions.
Cannabis for Muscle Spasms
In 2009, talk show personality Montel Williams announced his advocacy for cannabis towards the treatment for muscle spasms, in New York and other states. Struggling from multiple sclerosis for a decade, Williams spoke about his experience of using medical cannabis for relieving painful symptoms and said that marijuana is “just like any other plant-based medicine on the planet” and went on to compare it with willow bark, known as aspirin.
The cannabinoid THC resembles the Anandamide chemical that is responsible to “turn on nerve receptors through the central nervous system.” Consumption of THC reduces inflammation in the system and acts as strong neuroprotective antioxidants.
A study conducted by the University of California in 2010 found that patients with multiple sclerosis who smoked cannabis reported pain relief and improvement in spasticity. Further, the study used a spray to reduce spasticity that wasn’t responding to treatments in the past.
GW Pharmaceuticals, based in Britain, has developed a drug called, Sativex. Sativex is a sublingual spray that has Cannabidiol and THC in the proportion of 1:1. It is a cannabis-derived MS drug, and it is approved in countries like Great Britain and Canada. According to an article on Leaf Science, Sativex is not considered cannabis under the federal law. Few people think that if the FDA approves the use of Sativex, it will be tough for the US government to continue classifying cannabis as a Schedule I drug, but since the scientific name for the drug is nabiximols, it can be separately scheduled from cannabis.
Along with its controlled recommendation as a cure for multiple sclerosis, Sativex is under trial for other medical conditions such as it is studied in the UK as an added treatment for brain cancer. Plus, earlier studies show the usefulness of the drug for neuropathic pain and in the treatment of arthritis.
In the United States, Sativex was given the Fast Track designation by the FDA in 2014. It is now in the Phase III trials as a treatment for cancer-related pain. As GW Pharmaceuticals say, they expect the FDA to approve Sativex soon in 2016 or 2017. Once the FDA gives approval, the drug will be available to be sold in pharmacies and can be prescribed by doctors.
While Sativex is medically useful, a deterrent factor is its cost. An annual prescription of the drug in New Zealand costs about USD 16,000. Professor Gavin Giovannoni from the London School of Medicine says that Sativex “has not proven to be cost-effective,” leading to patients of multiple sclerosis in the UK to resort to another illegal form of cannabis.
As much as Sativex is useful for treating muscle spasms and other muscular pains, it comes with the same side effects as marijuana. Fatigue and dizziness are common side effects; however, it is medically proven not to have any permanent damage on the human cognitive functions. In simple words, Sativex will produce a high, a patient can experience mild symptoms of cannabinoid intoxication.
Cannabis has clinically proven to be useful in reducing muscle spasms and other pains. Future research and clinical trials will strengthen the position.