Posted by: Thixia | September 19, 2008

Pot may impair mental function in MS patients

Patients with multiple sclerosis who choose to smoke marijuana to help relieve some of their symptoms may be harming their cognitive abilities, finds new Canadian research.


The researchers, with Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, say they found that MS patients who regularly smoked pot appeared to have more difficulties with processing information and short-term verbal memory.


Study author Dr. Anthony Feinstein says MS patients should be aware of the risks of pot, because many are already dealing with cognitive problems.


“The significance of this finding is particularly important because MS is itself a cause of neuropsychological impairment in 40 to 65 per cent of patients, and therefore this research suggests that smoking marijuana may only be worsening the problem,” Feinstein said in a statement.


The study, published in the online edition of the journal Neurology, compared the mental skills and emotional status of a small group of 10 MS patients who said that they regularly smoked pot for symptom relief against 130 patients who didn’t use the drug.


The researchers found that the pot smokers performed poorly on tests that measured speed of thinking, cognition, and information processing. They were, on average, about 50 per cent slower on these tests than non-marijuana users.


The pot smokers also had a higher lifetime likelihood of developing psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety, depression and other mood alterations.


Multiple sclerosis can cause co-ordination problems, muscle spasticity, and partial or complete paralysis. It also affects the mind, impairing short-term memory and decision-making. As well, people with MS have higher rates of depression and suicide compared to the general population.


Feinstein admits that the study sample size was small and says his team can’t be sure that it was the marijuana that reduced mental sharpness and not the natural progression of the disease.


He says more studies are needed to replicate his team’s findings and to see whether cannabis-based drugs have the same effect.


In Canada, federal regulations allow some MS patients to apply for permits to possess and/or grow marijuana for medical reasons or to designate another person to grow it for the person who has the permit.


There are also prescription medications available that contain the active ingredient in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), sold under such names as Saltivex, Marinol and Cesamet.


The study subjects in Feinstein’s study used “street” pot as opposed to federally-provided medical marijuana or medications.






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