Smoking dope harmful to MS sufferers, say Canadian researchers

I have just read the most ridiculous press release. The research, which concerns multiple sclerosis sufferers who smoke cannabis, comes to the staggering conclusion that these unfortunate souls are more likely to have emotional and memory problems than the general population.

Well knock me down with a feather!

If you or I had MS, we would almost certainly be a tad pissed off. We would also be suffering from some rather unpleasant physical symptoms that might lead us to use cannabis or other drugs with known analgesic effects. Drugs which, by definition, mess with our nervous systems.

Study author “Anthony Feinstein, MPhil, PhD” said:

“This is the first study to show that smoking marijuana can have a harmful effect on the cognitive skills of people with MS. This is important information 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.

A significant number of MS sufferers self-medicate on cannabis because it relieves symptoms of the disease. And, if they have any sense, these cannabis users will be well aware that a balance must be struck between cognitive function and pain relief.

So what are these researchers saying – that cannabis intoxication slows you down? If so this is hardly an original finding, is it?

But I’m afraid it gets worse…

In their study, the researchers interviewed 140 Canadians with MS. Of those, 10 had smoked cannabis within the previous month, and were thus defined as “current” users of the drug.

The study found that dope smokers performed 50 percent slower in tests of information processing speed compared with non-smokers. There was also a “significant association” between smoking cannabis and emotional problems such as depression and anxiety.

So again we come back to the chicken and egg question of MS and emotional problems. Association does not imply causation. Maybe the full research paper when it’s published will clarify this, but here I am accurately representing the press release published by the American Academy of Neurology.

And what of the statistics? From a sample of 10 cannabis smokers in a total of 140 subjects, the researchers make claims that cannot be substantiated. They also note that people with MS have higher rates of depression and suicide compared with the general population.

Feinstein concludes:

“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.”

I despair, I really do. If this were a Baccalaureate/A level project in scientific research methods, the students would fail. Miserably.