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Cannabinoids are a collection of over 100 chemicals that are derived from the cannabis plant (cannabis sativa). Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of these chemicals and research has said it has anti inflammatory effects when induced on animal cells, without unwanted psychoactive side effects. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is another one of these chemicals that gives off a psychotropic effect in animals brains. Endogenous cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) are found in the endocannabinoid system and allow cannabinoids to bind and work in the body. Medical marijuana, for numerous conditions, has a well-documented history stretching back thousands of years. This, combined with data from recent clinical trials, points to the prospect of cannabis as a medication in the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS) and other medical conditions.
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Cannabinoids can improve spasticity
The conclusion from these clinical studies is still unknown in relation to cannabinoid efficiency. It is consistent with the biology of cannabis that beneficial and psychoactive effects will invariably be linked. However, there are consistent improvements in certain signs such as spasticity, pain and sleep from the patient perspectives. These appear to validate claims made in previous studies. It might be necessary to address problems in the oral delivery of cannabinoids, because this is unsatisfactory for short-term studies of symptom relief and because other routes such as an aerosol inhaler might produce better efficacy by enabling patients to minimize side-effects. This study has shown that cannabinoids are quite efficient in relieving muscle spasticity arising from MS symptoms, however more studies are needed so that psychoactive effects can be minimized.
Cannabinoids have a therapeutic value
There is much potential for researchers to develop weaker agonists of the CB1 receptor that can have therapeutic benefit and also widen the therapeutic window, because the current window between symptom relief and psychoactivity of THC or cannabis is narrow. In addition, targeting endocannabinoid degradation by inhibiting uptake or degradative enzymes could locally target sites of damage where endocannabinoids are upregulated, while sparing cognitive sites and reducing unwanted psychoactive effects. The long-term experiment described in this study is particularly encouraging because the results indicate that cannabis not only relieves symptoms but also is potentially neuroprotective and involved in synaptic plasticity; this should be investigated further. It is clear, however, that cannabinoids present a novel target for symptom relief in many neurological conditions, not just in treating MS, and that they might also have an important neuroprotective role in slowing disease progression of central nervous system disease. The difficult task for the future will be to determine whether these emerging biological effects can be better identified in clinical trials.