While perusing press releases for this week’s online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, I came across one with some unintentionally humorous phrasing.
The press release details how University of Washington/Albert Einstein College of Medicine researchers using a mouse model of multiple sclerosis (MS) appear to have discovered that the disease inhibits the brain’s production of neuroprotective endocannabinoids, which results in greater brain damage. Then, to my great joy, the press release twists itself into a pretzel to avoid saying that smoking pot actually helps MS. Instead, it cautiously suggests that “synthetic marijuana-like compounds” and “marijuana-based medications” might be useful for MS sufferers. The paper itself uses the term “cannabinoid-based medicine.”
Does this kind of hairsplitting seem just a little disingenuous to anyone else?
Despite my criticism, I think the researchers should be commended for their work, which seems to suggest that marijuana itself, as well as its synthetic derivatives, holds promise for MS treatment. But why not call a spade a spade?
For comparison, a similar 2003 UK study that demonstrated the neuroprotective potential of cannabinoids didn’t mince words: “Cannabis may also slow the neurodegenerative processes that ultimately lead to chronic disability in multiple sclerosis and probably other diseases.”
Could it be that mainstream US researchers are hedging about marijuana’s medicinal uses because of its current federal illegality? Surely not! Surely they’re more interested in science’s quest for knowledge and truth than federal funding and profitable pharmaceutical patents! Right?
But I digress. Back to marijuana’s efficacy against MS.
Decades of anecdotal reports that marijuana treats the symptoms of MS (particularly muscle spasms) have led to numerous small-scale studies over the years that confirmed the drug’s subjective benefits for MS patients, but critics maintain marijuana’s objective benefits for MS remain unclear.
The US-based National MS Society, arguably the most influential MS organization in the world, currently does not recommend marijuana for any form of MS treatment whatsoever, citing insufficient data and marijuana’s “uncomfortable” side effects like dry mouth, mental clouding, and the “feelings of being ‘high.’” Instead the Society suggests FDA-approved drugs like baclofen and tizanidine, which boast much more comfortable side effects including burning urination, diarrhea, vomiting, yellow eyes, skin rashes and hallucinations.
Who in their right mind would risk mental cloudiness and the dreadfully unpleasant feeling of being high when there are FDA-approved drugs with such minor side effects instead?