With 26 states plus the District of Columbia now allowing medical marijuana use, according to a recent North American Research Committee on Multiple Sclerosis (NARCOMS) survey, many people with multiple sclerosis are considering the herb as a therapeutic option. NARCOMS is a research program that allows people with Multiple Sclerosis to expedite MS research by volunteering information about their experience with the disease.
Results of the NARCOMS survey, which was led by Stacey S. Cofield, PhD — an associate professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health Department of Biostatistics — were presented at the American Academy of Neurology 2015 Annual Meeting that was held April 18-25 at the Walter T. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC.
Dr. Cofield, whose primary research focus is on design and analysis of longitudinal studies for Multiple Sclerosis and Rheumatoid Arthritis, also serves as Deputy Director of the CombiRx Statistical and Data Management Center and the NARCOMS Coordinating Center. She discussed results of the confidential survey in a Platform Presentation on Friday May 29 during the 2015 Annual Meeting of the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers (CMSC) that was held May 27 – 30 at the JW Marriot Hotel in Indianapolis, Indiana.
To view a video of a Q&A session with Dr. Cofield at the conference, click here.
At the Washington AAN meeting, Dr. Cofield and colleagues presented data from 5,665 participants in the survey that had responded at the time. Some 63 percent had used marijuana before their MS diagnosis, and 16 percent said they are currently using it to relieve MS symptoms.
The study, entitled “Marijuana Usage and Disability in MS in the NARCOMS Registry,” was published in the journal Neurology and coauthored by Dr. Cofield with Amber Salter, Tuula Tyry, Christina Crowe, Sandre McNeal, Gary Cutter, Robert Fox, and Ruth-Ann Marrie, who note that several clinical trials have suggested that cannabinoids ameliorate symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS). In the United States, regulations regarding medical marijuana are changing, making access to it easier.
The study, was designed to assess attitudes and behaviors related to marijuana use overall in the multiple sclerosis patient population, parsing the results according to both clinical and socio-demographic characteristics. The study was initiated in 2014, when 12,260 active NARCOMS’ active survey respondents were encouraged to complete an online, anonymous survey, capturing demographic and clinical characteristics including disability status (Patient Determined Disease Steps [PDDS], Performance Scales, NARCOMS tremor and depression scales), attitudes and behaviors regarding marijuana use.
According to the study, the survey questionnaire was kept intentionally short, with only about 25 questions and requiring only a few minutes to complete. To ensure confidentiality, the survey was anonymous and separate from the NARCOMS website and database. In the study context, marijuana use refers to smoking, ingesting any controlled substance derived from marijuana or synthetic marijuana.
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