Friday, February 15, 2008

Marijuana ups MS problems

[Posted: Fri 15/02/2008]

People with multiple sclerosis (MS) who smoke marijuana are more likely to have emotional and memory problems, the results of a new study indicate.

Around 6,000 people in Ireland have MS, which affects the brain and the spinal cord. There is currently no cure and the condition is characterised by a slowly progressing disablement.

According to the Canadian researchers, these findings are important because a ‘significant minority’ of people with MS smoke marijuana as a treatment for the disease, ‘even though there are no scientific studies demonstrating that it is an effective treatment for emotional difficulties’.

The study involved 140 people with MS. Of these, 10 had smoked marijuana within the last month and were considered current users. They were compared to people with MS who did not smoke marijuana.

The participants were evaluated for emotional problems and psychiatric disorders, including depression and anxiety. They were also evaluated in other areas such as speed at processing information and memory.

The researchers found that marijuana smokers performed 50% slower in information processing tests, compared to MS patients who did not smoke marijuana.

There was also a significant link between smoking marijuana and emotional problems such as depression and anxiety,

“Since marijuana can induce psychosis and anxiety in healthy people, we felt it was especially important to look at its effects on people with MS. This is the first study to show that smoking marijuana can have a harmful effect on the cognitive skills of people with MS”, said lead researcher Dr Anthony Feinstein of the University of Toronto.

Details of these findings are published in the medical journal, Neurology.