What is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. The body’s immune system attacks the nerve fibres and causes damage to their protective covering which means that the nerves can’t send signals to and from the brain properly. There are three different types of MS and the signs and symptoms can vary widely, including problems with vision, movement, sensation or balance. MS is most commonly diagnosed in people aged between 20 – 40 years. There is no cure for MS but treatments can help manage symptoms, change the progress of the disease and help speed up recovery from attacks.

How is it commonly treated?

The medication used depends on several factors including the person’s type of MS. Treatments can ease specific symptoms or help reduce the risk of relapses or the progress of the disease. Disease modifying treatments slow down the frequency and severity of attacks so that the nerves are damaged less. However, these treatments do not reverse existing symptoms and there can also be significant side-effects. Short-term high dose steroids may help shorten severe attacks and reduce their severity.

Other medications may be used to ease symptoms such as muscle spasms, pain, continence problems, tiredness, depression and others. Lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet, regular exercise, physiotherapy and occupational therapy can also help reduce symptoms and improve mood.

Factsheet: Medical Cannabis and Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis Factsheet

Multiple Sclerosis and Medical Cannabis


Research has shown that medical cannabis can be useful in treating some of the symptoms of MS in some people. However, there is no strong evidence that medical cannabis can change the course of MS by reducing relapses or slowing down the progression of the disease. There is some evidence that medical cannabis may be useful in reducing pain associated with MS, muscle spasticity and may also improve the quality of life for some patients.

In Australia, the only medical cannabis product approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for people with MS is Sativex. It can be prescribed for the treatment of moderate to severe muscle spasticity if other anti-spasticity medications haven’t worked and if the person with MS shows a significant improvement in an initial trial. Prescribing other forms of medical cannabis or using it to treat other symptoms is the decision of the treating doctor.

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MS Australia is the largest Australian not-for-profit organisation dedicated to empowering researchers to identify ways to treat, prevent and cure MS, seeking policy change via advocacy, and acting as champion for Australians affected by MS Home - MS Australia


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