MS Patients Admit to Using Cannabis, but Rarely Ask for Medical Guidance


While people with multiple sclerosis (MS) used cannabis to manage various symptoms, they often did not ask their doctor for guidance, according to a study presented at the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers (CMSC) meeting.

In this exclusive MedPage Today video, study author Robert Fox, MD, of the Mellen Center for MS at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, describes the NARCOMS survey results and what MS providers need to do in terms of better educating themselves and their patients.

Following is a transcript of his remarks:

In this abstract we sought to look at the source of information for patients who use cannabis and cannabis-related products for their multiple sclerosis. So we surveyed the participants of the NARCOMS MS patient registry to find out who had ever used cannabis before and then where they found their source of information.

And so we had over 1,000 participants responding, saying that they had ever used cannabis, about two-thirds of them were currently using, and about one-third had used cannabis in the past but aren’t currently using cannabis. And what we found interesting is that although the vast majority of people who had ever used cannabis had shared that they had used cannabis with their providers — so the providers knew that they were using cannabis — they didn’t seek their providers for information about cannabis.

In fact, one of the most common sources of information was themselves, meaning they kind of search it out through grassroots efforts of their own. The most common source of information outside of themselves was a professional at the dispensary where they were getting the cannabis from, or a dealer if they’re getting it from a dealer, or a friend, and some from the product label.

And so what we really found interesting is this separation that although they were talking to their providers about using cannabis, they didn’t go to their provider for information about the cannabis. Half of our respondents looked at themselves as the primary source of information where they would go search out different places, and then the dispensary. Only 12% of those who had ever used cannabis sought their MS provider as a source of information about cannabis.

We didn’t ask them why they chose their information source, but presumably it’s a combination of comfort and knowledge. So, comfort of talking to their provider, but that mustn’t be a large issue, because they acknowledge they are sharing with their provider that they’re using cannabis. So it can’t be totally driven by this comfort because they’re telling their provider what they’re doing, or what they have been doing.

I think it’s mostly knowledge. And knowledge that the healthcare providers have about cannabis, about the potential benefits, the risks, the side effect profile, also the different preparations of cannabis, the different ways in which it is taken into the body. I think there’s generally a lack of knowledge by providers of those different aspects.

So although we didn’t ask the participants, the respondents, why they responded in the way they responded, I have a feeling it’s because they didn’t think their provider knew or they indeed learned that their provider didn’t know enough. And so I think there is an educational opportunity for providers to learn more about what the science has found about cannabis and cannabis-derived products, how it has been found to impact the symptoms, which symptoms of MS, about the studies that haven’t really found it to be helpful in the disease progression, but just with the symptoms. And then, just as importantly, the side effect profile of what adverse effects can a patient expect both in the immediate time of taking it, as well as the long-term cumulative side effects.

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    Greg Laub is the Senior Director of Video and currently leads the video and podcast production teams. Follow



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