21 NOVEMBER 1992, Page 35

Pot luck denied

Sir: Thank goodness for Clare Hodge's lovely account of her discovery that mari- juana has a beneficial effect on the man- agement and treatment of multiple sclero- sis (`Very alternative medicine', 1 August), which completely echoes my own experi- ence.

Apart from the obvious devastating con- sequences associated with the disease, the worst aspect of having MS is the response from the medical profession in the often brutal manner of its diagnosis by neurolo- gists and their inability to alleviate the awful unrelenting symptoms. The hopeless- ness which this induces is indescribable and often gives rise to depression and despair far worse than the symptomatology of the disease itself.

I have suffered from MS for about 12 years and a few years ago I started to eat small quantities of marijuana. Like Clare Hodge, I was a most unlikely candidate but the effects were immediate and remark- able. Control of bladder functioning which was a humiliating problem is restored to normal and has been a liberating influence on my life-style. I can now go out shopping, to the theatre etc. without the anticipation of dread and panic. Painful and disturbing attacks of spasticity are relieved, and restful patterns of sleep are now ensured where previously sleep was disrupted by urinary frequency or pain and discomfort. Not least, I can laugh and giggle, have marvel- lous sex and forget that I have this awful, incurable, intractable disease.

I have discussed this with several neurol- ogists and made them aware of the bene- fits, yet they appear uninterested. Despite respectable research in other countries, neurologists in this country show little enthusiasm for research directions which would make life more tolerable for the many thousands of sufferers, and are unim- pressed by the anecdotal evidence present- ed by people like myself. We are singularly unimpressed by the often damaging drugs that they do prescribe to so little effect, e.g. steroids, which they now recognise to be not only harmful in themselves but capable of inducing deterioration. The urgency and concern for a cure are understandable, but of equal importance is the need for relief without damaging side-effects.

Marijuana is prescribable under the brand name Nabilone and it is unforgivable that MS sufferers are being deprived of the relief that it may bring. It is all the more galling that Dr John Marks can prescribe pure heroin and cocaine to addicts attend- ing his clinic in Widnes, when I have to run the circuit of illegal dealers to purchase a natural substance which brings such relief to the dreadful symptoms associated with MS.

Elizabeth MacRoty

The Mistal, Great Seansby Farm, Bradshaw, Halifax