MS responds to marijuana therapy
It has been eight years since Sparks resident Mary Webber was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, but only a little more than eight weeks since she discovered a source of relief in a potent strain of medical marijuana.
On a Monday afternoon in late December, Webber stood in the waiting room at her dispensary, Sierra Wellness Connections, stepping on and off the edge of a piece of shaggy carpet. For the first time in years, she explained enthusiastically to manager Eva Grossman, she could feel the difference between carpet and hard floor—even with her feet enclosed in a pair of knee-high black boots. A long-time numbness in her feet was subsiding.
Something similar was happening all over her body. “I can feel the webs of my fingers and toes,” Webber said. “It’s the first time in over eight years. I was putting my hair up last week, and I could feel my ears. I haven’t felt that in I don’t know how long.”
Webber, now 32, was diagnosed with MS—an unpredictable disease that affects the central nervous system—at age 25. Though signs and symptoms of MS vary from person to person, the disease damages a myelin sheath that protects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, often resulting in mobility problems.
For Webber, symptoms began with feelings of numbness. As the disease progressed, she estimates that she lost 70 percent of the feeling in her feet. She also lost feeling in her hands and other areas of her body, and temporarily lost much of the sight from her right eye.
Things grew worse. A car accident left her with back injuries, and doctors put her on a regimen of heavy-duty medication that included epidurals every three months. The numbness in her feet often caused Webber to stumble and fall, and she experienced spasticity that made normal life activities difficult.
Webber was in a lot of pain, but none of her traditional medication seemed to make much of a difference. Though little information exists on potential benefits of marijuana for MS patients, she decided to give it a try. “There was nothing else. I was running out of options,” Webber said.
Medical marijuana use has been legalized in many states, including Nevada, but is still listed as a Schedule I controlled substance at the federal level. As a result, scientific studies on medical benefits of marijuana have been few and far between. “There’s not a lot of room for even universities to study it. It’s a huge issue,” Webber said.
Instead, Webber’s treatment has been a process of trial and error. She met with a consultant at Sierra Wellness Connections who helped her pick out a few strains of marijuana that they thought might be helpful. Some, she said, did very little, but one strain—Margo Jean’s Gorilla Glue #4—may prove to be the medicine she’s been hoping for. “When I tried that strain, my feet started to tingle a little bit,” Webber said. “Over the next few days, they started to wake up even more.”
In the two months since she began using this strain, numbness all over Webber’s body has subsided significantly. She has been able to stop taking some of her other prescribed medications, which she believes is allowing her to think more clearly.
“I’m doing everything slowly. This is foreign territory, so I want to be really responsible. It’s unbelievable. I couldn’t be more grateful,” Webber said.