Current status of cannabis treatment of multiple sclerosis with an illustrative case presentation of a patient with MS, complex vocal tics, paroxysmal dystonia, and marijuana dependence treated with dronabinol
Pain, spasticity, tremor, spasms, poor sleep quality, and bladder and bowel dysfunction, among other symptoms, contribute significantly to the disability and impaired quality of life of many patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). Motor symptoms referable to the basal ganglia, especially paroxysmal dystonia, occur rarely and contribute to the experience of distress. A substantial percentage of patients with MS report subjective benefit from what is often illicit abuse of extracts of the Cannabis sativa plant; the main cannabinoids include delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta9-THC) and cannabidiol. Clinical trials of cannabis plant extracts and synthetic delta9-THC provide support for therapeutic benefit on at least some patient self-report measures. An illustrative case is presented of a 52-year-old woman with MS, paroxysmal dystonia, complex vocal tics, and marijuana dependence. The patient was started on an empirical trial of dronabinol, an encapsulated form of synthetic delta9-THC that is usually prescribed as an adjunctive medication for patients undergoing cancer chemotherapy. The patient reported a dramatic reduction of craving and illicit use; she did not experience the “high” on the prescribed medication. She also reported an improvement in the quality of her sleep with diminished awakenings during the night, decreased vocalizations, and the tension associated with their emission, decreased anxiety and a decreased frequency of paroxysmal dystonia.