Patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) who use medical marijuana use less prescription medications and experience fewer symptoms of the disease.

The findings are based on the survey responses of 115 MS patients receiving treatment at a clinic in Connecticut to 36 questions concerning their use of cannabis, such as frequency, effect on symptoms, and changes in use of prescription medications. The researchers, affiliated with the Yale University-Griffin Prevention Research Center, also collected the patients’ demographic information such as age, sex, disease duration etc.

The results, published in the journal Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders, reveal marijuana use in MS patients is associated with reduced pain symptoms, insomnia, muscle cramps and spasms, while improving mood. The researchers go on to note “a significant proportion of respondents” said they’d either stopped or reduced their use of prescription medications such as “opioids, benzodiazepines, muscle relaxers and other pain medications” as they found marijuana to be more effective at managing their symptoms.

“MCU [medical cannabis use] among PWMS [patients with MS] can lead to the reduction or discontinuation of several categories of prescription medications for symptoms of MS. Persons reporting the most benefit from MCU tended to have a milder form of MS with less disability,” the researchers write in their conclusion. “This study confirms the benefit of cannabis in several common MS symptoms, extending these findings to show that benefit can be related to baseline severity of some symptoms.”

The latest survey findings are consistent with previous studies that reported medical marijuana use can help reduce a patient’s dependency on opioid painkillers which are highly addictive and, if taken to excess, can cause serious complications. The findings also follow the guidance of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society which advises that marijuana can be used for symptom management of MS. Confirming this, one study by researchers at the University of California found cannabis use can help relieve pain and spasticity experienced by MS patients.

Such are the positive findings concerning the use of medical marijuana for MS patients, it’s estimated that one in five MS patients now uses cannabis for medical purposes. One marijuana-derived medication, Sativex, is approved for treating MS patients in Canada and the United Kingdom, but hasn’t yet been given the green light in the US.