ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Obesity May Raise Kids' Allergy Risk
Using Music and Sports to Improve Kids' Asthma
New Spray Could Benefit Cystic Fibrosis Patients
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Should Your Child Be Seeing a Chiropractor?
Ginger Can Ease Nausea From Chemotherapy Treatments
Hypnosis Cuts Hot Flashes for Breast Cancer Survivors
ANIMAL CARE
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
BONES & JOINTS
Improved Hip Implants Can Last 20 Years
Tequila Plant May Help Fight Bone Loss
Fruits and Veggies May Strengthen Bones
CANCER
To Quit Smoking, Try Logging On
Vitamin D Good for Breast Cancer Patients
Smoking Ups Risk of Second Breast Cancer
CAREGIVING
Hospital Volume Imperfect Gauge of Cancer Surgery Outcomes
Falls Are Top Cause of Injury, Death Among Elderly
Most Women Struggle With Rising Health Care Costs
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Smog Tougher on the Obese
Health Tip: Are You Anemic?
Firefighters Have Narrower-Than-Normal Arteries, Study Finds
COSMETIC
Get Sugared!.... Its a sweet choice for hair removal
Wrinkle Fillers Need Better Label Warnings: FDA Panel
Gum Chewing May Cut Craving for Snacks
DENTAL, ORAL
Laser Technology Spots Cavities Before They Start
Amino Acid May Be Key to Strong Teeth
Health Tip: At Risk for Gingivitis
DIABETES
Fructose-Sweetened Drinks Up Metabolic Syndrome Risk
Chamomile Tea May Ward Off Diabetes Damage
Findings Challenge Tight Glucose Control for Critically Ill Patients
DIET, NUTRITION
Caffeine May Offer Some Skin Cancer Protection
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
Meat Additives May Be Dangerous for Kidney Patients
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Household Chemicals May Affect Cholesterol Levels
Ozone-Depleting Inhalers Being Phased Out
Chemical in Plastics May Cause Fertility Problems
EYE CARE, VISION
Nutrient-Rich Diet Lowers Risk of Age-Related Eye Disease
Florida Vision Test Law: Fewer Traffic Deaths Among Elderly
Kids Think Glasses Make Others Look Smart, Honest
FITNESS
Almost Two-Thirds of Americans Meet Exercise Guidelines
Be Healthy, Spend Less
Avoiding a Holiday Season of Discontent
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
New Yogurt May Ease Stomach Ulcers
GENERAL HEALTH
Biomarkers May Help Measure Rate of Decline in Dementia
Have a Goal in Life? You Might Live Longer
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Quitting Smoking Doubles Survival in Early Stage Lung Cancer
Polyunsaturated Fats Really May Lower Heart Risk
Review Confirms Links Between Diet, Heart Health
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Swine Flu Is Now a Pandemic Says W.H.O.
Bacterial Infections May Succumb to Honey
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
6 Million U.S. Kids Lack Enough Vitamin D
Heart Defects in Newborns Linked to Antidepressants
Most Depressed Teens Don't Get Treatment
MEN'S HEALTH
Countdown to Hair Loss
Eating Fast Until Full Triples Overweight Risk
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
MENTAL HEALTH
Estrogen May Help Men's Hearts
Optimism May Boost Immune System
Keeping Mentally Active Seems To Keep The Brain Active
PAIN
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Mom's Extra Pregnancy Pounds May Raise Child's Heart Risks
Exercise Boosts Bone Density in Breast-Feeding Moms
Sugary Colas Tied to Gestational Diabetes
SENIORS
Laughter Can Stimulate a Dull Appetite
Exercise Benefits Even the Oldest Old
Money May Matter, Health-Wise, in Old Age
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
For Women, Moderate Midlife Drinking Linked to Healthier Old Age
Green Tea May Help Treat Uterine Fibroids
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Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients

(HealthDay News) -- Cancer patients, glaucoma patients and others can benefit from medical marijuana, and now a new analysis shows that it can help multiple sclerosis (MS) patients find relief from the muscle spasms that are the hallmark of the debilitating autoimmune disease.

"The therapeutic potential of cannabinoids in MS appears to be comprehensive, and should be given considerable attention," said lead researcher Dr. Shaheen Lakhan, executive director of the Global Neuroscience Initiative Foundation.

"Spasticity, an involuntary increase in muscle tone or rapid muscle contractions, is one of the more common and distressing symptoms of MS," the researchers noted in their review. "Medicinal treatment may reduce spasticity, but may also be ineffective, difficult to obtain or associated with intolerable side effects," they added.

"We found evidence that cannabis plant extracts may provide therapeutic benefit for MS spasticity symptoms," Lakhan said.

Although some objective measures showed improvement, there were no significant changes in after-treatment assessments, Lakhan said. "However, subjective assessment of symptom relief did often show significant improvement post-treatment," he added.

For the study, Lakhan and his colleague Marie Rowland reviewed six studies where marijuana was used by MS patients. Five of the trials showed that marijuana reduced spasms and improved mobility, according to the report published Dec. 3 in the online journal BMC Neurology.

Specifically, the studies evaluated the cannabis extracts delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). These studies found that both THC and CBD extracts may provide therapeutic benefit for MS spasticity symptoms, Lakhan said.

Although there was a benefit from using marijuana there were also side effects, such as intoxication. This varied depending on the amount of marijuana needed to effectively limit spasms, but side effects were also seen in the placebo groups, Lakhan and Rowland noted.

The careful monitoring of symptom relief and side effects is critical in reaching an individual's optimal dose, Lakhan said. "Moreover, there is evidence that cannabinoids may provide neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory benefits in MS," he added.

"Considering the distress and limitations spasticity brings to individuals with MS, it would be important to carefully weigh the potential for side effects with the potential for symptom relief, especially in view of the relief reported in subjective assessment," Lakhan said.

Dr. Moses Rodriguez, a professor of neurology and immunology at the Mayo Clinic, said that "the idea of using cannabis to treat MS has been around for a long time."

Rodriguez noted that the effects of using marijuana have been mixed. "It has been difficult to know whether the effect has been just a general well-being or whether it has a direct effect on muscle fibers and spasticity," he said.

If drugs could be developed that take away the intoxicating effects of marijuana, it could have a direct effect on spasms without the high, Rodriguez said.

The Obama administration announced in October that it will no longer prosecute medical marijuana users or suppliers, provided they obey the laws of states that allow use of the drug for medicinal purposes.

Rodriguez said he is often asked by his MS patients about whether there is a benefit to using marijuana.

"What I tell my patients," he said, "is if they want to try it they should try it. They should understand that there is a potential for it to be habit-forming and there may be a potential that they are fooling themselves."

Patricia A. O'Looney, vice president of biomedical research at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, said the society has studied this issue and does not think enough is known to recommend that MS patients use marijuana.

"Because the studies to date do not demonstrate a clear benefit compared to existing therapy, and issues of side effects and long-term effects are not clear, the recommendation is that it should not be recommended at this time," she said.

Another expert, Dr. William Sheremata, director of the Multiple Sclerosis Center at the University of Miami School of Medicine, also doesn't think MS patients necessarily benefit from marijuana use.

Sheremata noted that the objective measures in the study did not show any benefit from marijuana. "Those are the only valid measures. Subjective responses are subjective; they really don't have much in the way of validity," he said. "I am not convinced that the use of marijuana benefits patients as a whole."

SOURCES: Shaheen Lakhan, M.D., Ph.D., executive director, Global Neuroscience Initiative Foundation, Panorama City, Calif.; Moses Rodriguez, M.D., professor, neurology and immunology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.; Patricia A. O'Looney, Ph.D., vice president, biomedical research, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, New York City; William Sheremata, M.D., director, Multiple Sclerosis Center, University of Miami School of Medicine; Dec. 3, 2009, BMC Neurology, online Published on: December 04, 2009