A Cautionary Tale about Cannabis Effects in Patients with MS

Cognitive dysfunction affects 50% of patients with MS and affects daily activities in 5% to 10%. Several studies have shown that patients with MS who smoke cannabis have more severe cognitive difficulties than those who do not, in particular affecting working memory, information processing speed, and executive dysfunction. A new study published in Neurology May 27, 2014, consisted of 20 subjects, smoking cannabis daily or 4 to 5 times. They were trying to treat pain, spasticity, insomnia, anxiety. Several smoked for recreation. There were no structural differences on MRI from a matched group who did not smoke. There were, however, significant differences in cerebral activation in the smokers on functional MRI. No subject was intoxicated at the time of the evaluations. Patients with MS show increased activity on functional MRI as cognitive tasks become more complex. These compensatory efforts can fail. This seems to be the reason that smoking cannabis affects cognitive function. It is not known if this activation pattern would improve or how long it would take if patients stopped smoking.

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Dr. Jack Florin

If It’s Not Too Late, Get A Great Education

According to a study published in Neurology, researchers found that patients with a higher educational level recovered better from a moderate to severe traumatic brain injury. College graduates were 7 times more likely to be free of disability 1 year after a traumatic brain injury than those who did not finish high school. These findings, and other studies, also hold for Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis.

How Common Is Autism?

A report by the Communicable Disease Center (CDC), a government agency, published March 28, 2014, estimates that 1 in 68 US children has autism spectrum disorder, a 30% increase from the CDC’s estimate of 1 in 88 in 2008. The disorder is more prevalent in boys than girls. The increased prevalence may be secondary to improved clinician identification and a growing number of autistic children with average to above average intellectual ability or a combination of both factors. Autism is recognized as a spectrum, no longer limited to the severely affected. It can be diagnosed by the time a child reaches 2, and parents are urged to take action if their child shows any developmental delay. The CDC will launch an awareness initiative called “Birth to Five: Watch Me Thrive.” Most children with autism are not diagnosed until after age 4.

The CDC cited several limitations to the report, and these new numbers need to be confirmed.

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