Marijuana for MS: Miracle or Menace?

Imagine the desperation felt by people living with chronic, severe pain or discomfort — with no relief in sight. The list of symptoms brought on by multiple sclerosis is lengthy, and for people with progressive forms of MS, quality of life becomes an intensely personal issue. Until we walk in those shoes, our ability to truly empathize is limited.

Marijuana has been reported to help patients cope with a variety of chronic medical conditions, including AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, and multiple sclerosis. Many MS patients and advocates report that the use of medical marijuana provides relief from spasticity, nerve pain, tremors, sleeping disorders, and depression.

Marijuana is known to cause some cognitive impairment, but many legally prescribed medications are far more potent and come with the risk of more serious side effects. Watch television for a few hours and you’ll see a stream of ads for powerful prescription medications with lengthy potential side-effects up to and including death… but they remain an option for those who choose them.

Six years into life with relapsing/remitting MS, I consider myself very fortunate in that I still have periods of remission that provide relief from symptoms. I have no need for marijuana or the regular use of any type of pain medication. However, having experienced extended periods of pain, discomfort, and a fair amount of disability, I have an inkling of how life might change should my MS run amok and become more aggressive, or if some other condition should rear its ugly head. It is a possibility I cannot dismiss.

Next: How Safe is Marijuana?

It’s clear that marijuana use can cause cognitive problems in the short-term, and perhaps even long-term. It is not something to be taken lightly, but for the chronically ill, perhaps that’s a fair trade-off.

Currently, 13 states allow some use of medical marijuana with a doctor’s approval, and earlier this year, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced that it will no longer raid state-approved marijuana dispensaries; our view of marijuana is changing.

It’s all very cut and dry if you believe that marijuana is nothing more than a dangerous and illegal street drug. But the testimonials by the chronically ill give one pause. Quality of life and end of life issues take on a whole new meaning when it’s your life rather than a hypothetical exercise.

Living comes with difficult choices that we’d rather not make, and sometimes it’s about the lesser evil. If marijuana, in its common form or some other variation, can improve quality of life, if only briefly, should it be treated any differently than any medication prescribed by a physician? Is it a moral issue?

Whether it’s a miracle or a menace may be in the eye of the beholder.

Writer Ann Pietrangelo embraces the concept of personal responsibility for health and wellness. As a multiple sclerosis patient, she combines a healthy lifestyle and education with modern medicine, and seeks to provide information and support to others. She is a regular contributor to’s Reform Health Policy blog in Causes.

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Jo S.
Jo S.about a month ago

Thank you Ann.

Mariah M.
Mariah M.2 years ago


Charli S.
Charlotte S.2 years ago

People should have the right to TRY anything that they want. It's their lives. We need to quit being a NANNY STATE. I live with chronic pain. I'm waiting for an appointment with a civilian doctor to get a Marijuana script to deal with the pain because the VAMC system CAN"T prescribe it even though it's been shown to be VERY effective for PTSD and other medical conditions. The pharmaceutical companies don't want it used because that takes money out of THEIR pockets. The same reason they don't want cures for things. It's all about the money. NO ONE HAS THE RIGHT TO DENY ME ANY TREATMENT I WANT TO TRY. My body, my CHOICE!!!!

Debra Jobson
Debra Jobson2 years ago

To Laura S... I disagree I have M.S. you try living in our shoes. For me it is better than any Chemical than Man has Made! Rather it be injested or smoked, it relieves my Muscles and Tendons from feeling like they are pulling all the way up to my throat! I did Bee Sting Therapy, yes Bee's can be a menace also, but do you think our World would be better off without Honey Bees? I dont think so!

Michele Wilkinson

Thank you

Laura Saxon
Past Member 2 years ago

I think it's a menace to society and should be banned.

Michael Abdi
Michael Abdi2 years ago


Aud Nordby
Aud nordby2 years ago


Patricia H.
Patricia H.2 years ago

interesting, thanks for sharing

Anna Undebeck
Anna Undebeck3 years ago

Thanx for the interesting reading.