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Less Pain Linked To Marijuana In Patients With Rare Autoimmune Disease

By on September 2, 2013
Devic's syndrome is caused by damage to the outer layer of nerve cells. This is also common in multiple sclerosis.

Devic’s syndrome is caused by damage to the outer layer of nerve cells, specifically in the optic nerve and spinal cord. – Patients with a rare autoimmune disease called Devic’s syndrome may be able to manage their pain with marijuana, according to a new German study.

Researchers found a strong relationship between levels of 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) – a chemical found in the brain that mimics the activity of marijuana – and differences in pain reported by patients.

Published in the international science journal PLOS ONE, the authors showed that high levels of 2-AG were linked to less pain. On the other hand, pain was “full-blown” in patients who lacked the chemical.

“Consequently, increasing plasma levels of 2-AG mitigate mechanical pain sensitivity, while an absence of 2-AG increase leaves these NMO [neuromyelitis optica] patients with full-blown hyperalgesia.”

Devic’s syndrome, or neuromyelitis optica, is caused by damage to cells of the nervous system – known as demylelination – specifically the spinal cord and optic nerve. The disease is similar to multiple sclerosis in some ways and is often misdiagnosed as such.

While pain from nerve damage (i.e. neuropathic pain) is recognized as a key symptom of Devic’s, its severity varies from patient to patient.

But now it seems clear that natural activity of the endocannabinoid system – pathways in the brain responsible for the marijuana high – contribute to these differences.

And while marijuana’s effect on pain was not evaluated in the study, the authors note that other studies have confirmed its role in treating pain.

“…the endocannabinoid system is involved in peripheral and central pain control and cannabinoid drugs acting at the CB1 receptor are approved for pain treatment in MS…”

Chemicals in marijuana may also have the potential to control progression of Devic’s syndrome by reducing inflammation, conclude the authors.

The study was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the German Research Foundation and the German Research Network on Neuropathic Pain

  • carlos D Branch

    hello my name is Carlos branch I’m a N.M..O. patient I live in Carbondale Illinois zip code 62901 I would appreciate if you could send me more information concerning marijuana and Devic’s my email is I’m in pain constantly if ya need anybody to do research on please contact me sincerely carlos branch PS thanks for the information I read and keep up the good work

    • Stephen

      My name is Stephen, and I have been going through the symptoms of NMO for the past two years. Although ive not been diagnosed with devics yet, im going through testing. I have been diagnosed with optic neuritous. I am very frustrated with most of the medical help. Recently I have heard of cannabis oil and how it might help me. I am not real dure yet, snd I still have some concerns. I live in Colorado so its legal, but I just don’t know. I would love to talk to someone who has been diagnosed with devics, so I might get spme help emotionaly. Thanks, Stephen.

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