Can Medical Marijuana Treat Brain Diseases?

By CBS News

Published 04/28 2014 06:28PM

Updated 04/28 2014 06:30PM

CBSNews -- Medical marijuana is used to treat certain medical conditions, now there is new data that questions whether medical marijuana can help treat some brain diseases.

Gloria Gates suffers from multiple sclerosis. Desperate for relief, the 69 year old uses a marijuana extract.

“I can use the medical marijuana to alleviate excruciating cramps that I can get in my muscles and my leg muscles,” says Gates.

Many patients with debilitating brain diseases turn to marijuana after traditional treatments fail.
Now a new review from the American Academy of Neurology shows that marijuana pills or spray can help some MS symptoms.

“The ones that were helped the most were pain, spasticity, which is tightness of the muscles, difficulty walking which is usually related to spasticity,” says Professor of Neurology at New York Medical College Dr. Barbara Koppel.

But the findings suggest marijuana is not effective in treating Parkinson's disease or epilepsy seizures.

Koppel says that doesn't mean the drug doesn't work, it's just that at this point, there isn't enough research in those areas, including smoked marijuana.

“There were too few patients studied in the rigorous manner that we need in order to classify and say something conclusive,” says Koppel. “There is lots of literature about smoking because that is what most people do but it's all anonymous questionnaires and it's patient testimonials we can't use.”

Gates says she tried medical marijuana as a last resort.

“It worked the very first time and has been an absolute blessing for me,” she says.

Gates says otherwise she would be on heavy duty pain medication and not able to function.

Now that marijuana is legal in many places, researchers hope it will be easier to conduct more studies.

Side effects for medical marijuana can include nausea, fainting, behavioral changes and suicidal thoughts.

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