Ask Dr. David

Using Medical Cannabis to Treat Multiple Sclerosis, Autoimmune Disease, and Similar Conditions

February 5, 2019

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is one of the medical conditions listed explicitly in Florida’s medical cannabis statute. It is an autoimmune disease that produces symptoms including muscle, joint, and nerve pain; fatigue; muscle spasms and twitches; bladder, bowel, and sexual problems; and, cognitive and emotional changes.

Florida patients may qualify for medical cannabis if they are diagnosed with one of the conditions listed by the State or a comparable condition. Thus, people who live with similarly debilitating symptoms as MS can often qualify for medical cannabis even without an MS diagnosis. Likewise, because all autoimmune conditions involve the immune system attacking some part of the patient’s body, patients with other chronic autoimmune disorders will typically qualify for medical cannabis as well.

When I first started researching how medical cannabis might help people with MS and other immune diseases, I found a study discussing CB1 and CB2 receptors, the two main endocannabinoid receptors all mammals and most vertebrates have in their bodies. The study showed the direct suppression of autoimmune inflammation when CB1 receptors on neurons and CB2 receptors on autoreactive white blood cells were activated. THC and CBD, the plant-based cannabinoids found in cannabis, also work to activate these CB receptors.

Since I first began treating patients with medical cannabis, clinical studies have been published that support this theory. The journal Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports published an article in 2018 stating, “the only strong evidence for medical marijuana in neurological disorders was for reducing the symptoms of patient-reported spasticity and central pain in MS and that the only complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) intervention in MS with strong supportive evidence was cannabinoids.”

All autoimmune conditions, including MS, involve overactivation of the immune system, and many also exhibit overactive nervous systems as well. This is probably why medical cannabis can work so well for these patients. Pain relief can be almost immediate (when inhaled), as well as minimized or prevented (by longer acting products such as capsules, drops, edibles, and patches). Over time, when inflammation is reduced, the organs targeted by the autoimmunity have an opportunity to repair themselves.

Since I began certifying Florida patients for medical cannabis in 2016, I have seen improvements in patients suffering from all of the above-mentioned debilitating symptoms. In my clinical observation, most people with autoimmune conditions similar to MS will experience relief in at least one aspect of their life, and more often the improvements are many.

In addition to the success I’ve had treating patients with these conditions, the most commonly reported “side effect” has been the patient’s ability to reduce their use of other medical treatments! This is exciting news for people with an autoimmune disease who are seeking improvement and relief. I look forward to continuing to help Floridians with multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases feel better with medical cannabis.

David Berger, MD has been successfully treating patients with medical cannabis since 2016 and is currently accepting new patients. For more information on medical cannabis in the Tampa Bay area, visit the Wholistic ReLeaf website here. To read other blogs written by Dr. David on medical cannabis, click here.