Allen Bowling, MD, PhD, physician associate of the Colorado Neurological Institute, discussed widely-researched benefits of cannabis on MS effects, its shortcomings, and the broad outcomes of alternative treatment.
Only chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting has more randomized trials with marijuana product treatment than mutliple sclerosis (MS).
Allen Bowling, MD, PhD, physician associate of the Colorado Neurological Institute (CNI) and clinical professor of neurology at the University of Colorado, spoke on marijuana products and alternative medicine practices in MS treatment at the 2017 Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers in New Orleans this week.
There are actually 19 different randomized controlled trials on marijuana products' effects on MS, Bowling said, and the results are promising.
"(They show) a benefit for pain, and people's sense of muscle stiffness," Bowling, founder of NeurologyCare.net, said. "It may help as well with sleep."
Of course, challenges persist in making marijuana products a mainstream form of MS treatment. Bowling noted studies have been done with research-grade preparations free of contaminants — products which are not yet readily available in US dispensaries.
Bowling also spoke on the "complex pharmacology of cannabis." Medicinal marijuana has more than 100 pharmacologically-active compounds, and each compound could have anywhere from 5-10 pharmacological effects.
"It's kind of overwhelming to theorize what the therapeutic effects may be, or even side effects," Bowling said.
Speaking on alternative treatments, Bowling said it has become common for professionals involved in MS to mix alternative care with conventional medicine. However, most healthcare professionals are not trained in alternative medicine.
"There’s a lot of education that still needs to be done with health professionals and with people with MS on just what are the facts," Bowling said. "What’s the transparent approach to risks and benefits of different unconventional therapies — and if you look at the facts, some of these therapies should be avoided, some are potentially dangerous, and others are promising or should actually be a part of the standard of care for people with MS."
Even to a trained professional, alternative treatment in MS is a broad spectrum. Bowling advises professionals to blend unconventional medicine with common, conventional medicine — but keep in mind the lifestyle of the patient.
"How people live their lives has an impact potentially on their MS — it certainly has an impact on the nervous system," Bowling said. "The broad umbrella approach is integrative medicine, mixing conventional, unconventional, and lifestyle approaches."