What are the lived experiences of people, within Scotland, who use cannabis to manage symptoms associated with MS?
Background- Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurodegenerative condition where the body begins to attack cells involved in the transportation of signals within the brain and CNS. People experience varying symptoms and, for some, these are associated with a decrease in quality of life. The MS Society have repeatedly voiced their opinion on complementary and alternative therapies for MS, controversially, cannabis being one. With people living longer and the ability and desire to selfmanage their conditions, cannabis has shown to be favourable in the enablement of this among those with MS. With medical cannabis use very much in the public eye, much research has been conducted around the globe aiming to determine how effective this drug is in the alleviation of certain symptoms. A recent literature review discovered that research into lived experiences of cannabis use in the UK was non-existent, and scarce within other countries. With around 100,000 people living with MS in the UK it is important that experiences attached to the use of cannabis are voiced, for potentially the first time within research. Aim- To uncover the experiences of people, within Scotland, who use cannabis to manage symptoms associated with MS, to influence practice and national policy. Method- An interpretative phenomenological methodology will be used to address the aim of this study, conducted over a 12-month period. Persons living with MS and who attend voluntary and/or third sector organisations within the Lothian region will be invited to participate. The collection and analysis of data will be an ongoing process until data saturation has been achieved. Data will be collected through unstructured interviews, aimed at providing a conversational feel, alongside the use of a reflective diary. Analysis will develop rich individual descriptions, which will be collated to add a layer of interpretation about experience and meanings. Significance- Findings from this study will add to the already existing knowledge base on medicinal cannabis, based on user-experience evidence. It will allow nurses and other professionals to understand and appreciate the importance of what it may be like for people who use cannabis for MS, while identifying other areas of potential research. The findings could also influence lobbying and national policy development. 4 Key words: Multiple sclerosis; symptom management; experience; person-centred; cannabis; marijuana; medical.