Multiple sclerosis is a common human demyelinating disease of the central nervous system (CNS), and it is thought to involve autoimmune responses to CNS myelin antigens. Current symptomatic therapies for multiple sclerosis are in some cases ineffective and may have a high risk of serious side effects. This has led some multiple sclerosis patients to self-medicate with cannabis, which anecdotal evidence suggests may be beneficial in controlling symptoms such as spasticity, pain, tremor and bladder dysfunction. In support of these claims, results from experimental studies have suggested that cannabinoid-based treatments may be beneficial in a wide number of diseases. Furthermore, recent research in animal models of multiple sclerosis has demonstrated the efficacy of cannabinoids in controlling disease-induced symptoms such as spasticity and tremor, as well as in ameliorating the severity of clinical disease. However, these initially promising results have not yet been fully translated into the clinic. Although cannabinoid treatment of multiple sclerosis symptoms has been shown to be both well tolerated and effective in a number of subjective tests in several small-scale clinical trials, objective measures demonstrating the efficacy of cannabinoids are still lacking. Currently, a number of large-scale phase III clinical trials are under way to further elucidate the use of cannabinoids in the symptomatic treatment of multiple sclerosis. This review highlights the recent advances in our understanding of the endocannabinoid system, discusses both the experimental and clinical evidence for the use of cannabinoids to treat multiple sclerosis and explores possible future strategies of cannabinoid therapy in multiple sclerosis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pharmacology (medical)