In this article we will cover two conditions known as Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Ataxia, their treatments, current issues with these treatments highlighted by cannabis supporters and medical marijuana as an alternative treatment for said conditions. We also touch on a personal story about Greg Cooper who is using medical marijuana to treat his multiple sclerosis (MS) and ataxia.
In America the idea that there is an opioid epidemic sweeping across the country is becoming more of a realization each day as more cases of opioid addiction, misuse and even death for a variety of reasons are being reported. News reports and documentaries highlight that opioids being used for very serious conditions are being taken off health care plans due to their price which leads patients to use harder drugs such as heroine and cocaine. It would be obvious to say that this in turn would create further issues for these people as well.
They also state that opioids are also being used for minor and chronic conditions which after prolonged use can be damaging to a patients organs and cause more problems for them. It should be pointed out that while this may well be the case, opioid medications are the backbone of the worlds health care systems and without them the world may not live or survive as easily as it has.
Similar to cerebral palsy multiple sclerosis is the name given a multitude of scleroses within the human body. Sclerosis refers to the hardening or stiffening of tissue within our bodies in a strange and uncommon pattern. When you notice someone with MS moving very suddenly in a similar way to a spasm this is due to a typical cause of MS which is when the protective covers of our nerve cells are damaged in the spinal chord and brain but not necessarily at the same time.
This can lead to involuntary spasms, slurred speech and fatigue to name but a few of the symptoms of sclerosis. Multiple sclerosis is technically the simple combination of a number of these symptoms affecting one patient. However since damaged nerve cells will usually result in a number of these symptoms happening regardless, it is good to understand the differences here. The severity or number of symptoms experienced by an individual patient can depend on the severity of the condition and at what stage of the conditions progression it was treated i.e. “how early it was caught”.
Ataxia is a condition not many people would be familiar with but over a hundred thousand people are affected by it in America according to the National Ataxia Foundation. It is a condition which is caused by damage or abnormalities within our nervous system. Signs of ataxia are similar to multiple sclerosis with involuntary muscle movements, poor coordination, abnormal walking gait (the distance made between their feet when we walk) being some of the most noticeable.
Multiple sclerosis can be a cause of ataxia but its main causes relate to damage within the nervous system as mentioned before. This means the causes of ataxia itself can seem endless as it can be caused by stroke, hereditary conditions or issues with cell production. This means, (as we will discuss below) treating the symptoms of ataxia can be very difficult. In relation to opioid addiction this may lead doctors to use a wide variety of different medications, of different strengths on a patient before they find the best one. The run up to this discovery can be a tough one for the patient depending on how it goes.
Due to how similar both multiple sclerosis and ataxia are it is no surprise that their treatments are also similar. The main differences in a medication or treatment for either will usually be down to the differing causes i.e. cell production cause vs a stroke cause, and these differing causes will also have an impact on how effective a specific treatment will be. For example you may not be able to “cure” the effects of stroke related ataxia but there will still be a treatment that can help the patient in some way.
Both conditions include forms of occupational and physical therapy as part of their treatments which are usually combined with some form of steroid/medication. The therapy sessions are more to help with muscle/movement related issues. This will help patients move and use their bodies like they are supposed to so they can move and use these muscles as best they can when they are not in therapy. Otherwise they will remain stiff and degenerate overtime causing more problems for the patient.
For example leg exercises may aid in a patient being able to sit up from a chair and walk around their home. This will not only help with their multiple sclerosis/ataxia condition but it will help with kidney issues which can occur from being bed ridden/sitting down for long periods of time. It can also improve the patients mental stability as being “cooped up” in a house all day can make people depressed, especially if they are alone.
There are many different medications available for multiple sclerosis and ataxia all of which must only be taken under recommendation from a doctor or registered medical professional. Below are a number of potential medications people can use to treat either multiple sclerosis or ataxia including medical marijuana.
Ocrelizumab is a medication used for multiple sclerosis which targets the primary causes of certain symptoms and stops them from happening for a period of time. It is a powerful drug which is given intravenously on a biannual basis.
Fingolimod is also a medication for multiple sclerosis and it works as a immunomodulator which means it effects how our immune system responds. So similar to how we have written about reactions such as acne being overreactions from our immune system, it would appear this drug treats immune response related MS symptom in a similar way i.e. increasing or decreasing the reaction that is causing the negative symptom for a positive or neutral result.
Gabapentin is a medication for ataxia and its purpose is to resupply our bodies resources of gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) which acts as a major inhibitory neurotransmitter within our spine and brain. Neurotransmitters are important for our bodies as they send signals around our body so it does what we need.
What GABA does specifically will depend on the receptor it interacts with within the brain and spinal chord. This drug in particular has been recorded as reducing the symptoms of ataxia in brain degeneration.
Pregabalin is another ataxia medication which also helps to increase our resources of gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) neurotransmitters but with more potent supplies. It could be said that the difference in concentration when compared to Gabapentin is what results in some minor side effects such as dizziness when patients use pregabalin.
Medical Marijuana: Cannabis when smoked or inhaled via vape is usually referred to as marijuana but as a treatment it is usually only given as a last resort. From clinical studies carried out in 2014 it would appear it can only help with muscle stiffness (spasticity) which many patients find is one of the more painful aspects of MS and ataxia.
As we have mentioned in many of our articles, marijuana, cannabis, hemp or CBD oil usually act as aids for conditions with very few cases of these treatments “curing” or getting rid of the causes of any possible condition. In relation to multiple sclerosis and ataxia marijuana acts in a similar way because it only alleviates the symptoms but it does not stop them from occurring permanently.
It should also be noted that such results all depend on the condition, its causes, type of treatment and how the treatment is taken. For example with Ocrelizumab you can take it twice a year due to its medication type but marijuana or cbd oil would have to be taken as part of a daily routine in most cases. This can be both good and bad for the patient as marijuana can provide a natural aid for MS and ataxia but if given to a younger patient it could effect their brain development.
Ocrelizumab is very powerful and therefore is more likely to provide a long term benefit for 6 months but it could have negative effects if taken more than twice a year. This is why we always stress proper doctor recommendation before taking any treatment or medication.
In the video below a number of cannabis supporters highlight the need for medical marijuana as a legal alternative to opioids due to the opioid addiction problem running through America. While this may be true, further research would be needed to create a responsible and effective treatment but the case of Greg Cooper mentioned in the video sheds light on using marijuana compared to opioids as a treatment for multiple sclerosis and ataxia.
In the video we can see how Greg is suffering from the symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS) and ataxia when trying to answer the interviewers questions and even when trying to take his marijuana medication. There is a distinct difference in Greg after he has taken “a few tokes” as he says, of marijuana and as the interviewer points out the differences are night and day. Now while Greg is considerably calmer in the video after taking marijuana his symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS) and ataxia are certainly not gone.
He still has trouble moving, has rapid eye movement and slower slurred speech. This would support our on going claims that cannabis/marijuana does act as an effective aid for certain conditions to improve peoples lives but does not cure many of the conditions other sources claim that it does.
Interviewer: What do you say to those that say marijuana needs to be tested and regulated and have the high taken out for pharmaceutical companies to consider it a valuable medicine? Greg Cooper: That’s a pretty, and i only mean this as a measurement, as to how much it is actually a pathetic thing to say… I mean just look at me, is it not blatantly obvious that I have just enjoyed however many tokes. I look happy.
It is clear from the interview that Greg is grateful for marijuana and understands that it can be used for good and he theatrically states in the video that he is not addicted to marijuana which many anti-cannabis supporters would say is a potential issue with medical cannabis use. Overall more research will be needed before cannabis becomes a mainstream treatment for multiple sclerosis and ataxia and even if it does it is more likely to used as a last resort medication as opioids do provide many benefits for the majority of American patients.