In a nationwide survey of cannabis-based therapy use among Americans who have multiple sclerosis (MS), it was found that nearly half of the respondents endorsed such products.

The patients had used these products primarily for nerve-based pain and sleep disturbances. Results found that the reported scores for perceived pain were generally worse among recent or current cannabis users.

The survey results were described in the study, “Cannabinoid use among Americans with MS: Current trends and gaps in knowledge,” that was published in the Multiple Sclerosis Journal – Experimental, Translational and Clinical.

Of the 1,217 survey respondents, a total of 1,027 (84%) answered the question about cannabis use in the past year. Among these, 427 (42%) had endorsed cannabis use and 386 (90%) of this subgroup used cannabis for medical purposes only or for medical and recreational purposes.

The survey found that the respondent’s choice to use cannabis was mostly influenced by the patients’ own independent research or advice from family or friends. 18% discussed using cannabis with their healthcare provider, and less than 1% received provider assistance on the types of formulations available.

Among the 240 (56%) people who used marijuana as a sleep aid, 78% said it provided more than one sleep benefit. The ability to fall asleep was reported as the most common benefit by 82% of respondents.

This suggested “differential benefits for specific insomnia types, with greatest benefits reported for sleep initiation,” the researchers wrote.

The survey’s findings highlight “an immediate need for prospective, mechanistic studies focused on the effects of cannabinoids for chronic MS symptoms, as well as interactions between MS symptoms,” the researchers added.

They concluded that “cannabinoid use is common in MS [patients], despite a paucity of provider guidance,” suggesting “crucial gaps between community use and clinical care.”

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