Cannabis has gained a significant amount of social acceptance in recent years. As more and more research becomes available, physicians are starting to come around to its use in medicine as well. Cannabis is medically significant because it works on the body’s endocannabinoid system. This system works to maintain balance in the body . The research paper “Cannabinoids for fibromyalgia pain: a critical review of recent studies (2015–2019)” explains:
“The primary function of the endocannabinoid system in humans is to maintain homeostasis, which includes regulation of pain and inflammation. The endocannabinoid system is integral to normal physiological functioning in humans and has been associated with the pathology of several neurological conditions .”
What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a complex pain syndrome that is characterized by pain and stiffness all over the body, fatigue and sleep problems, depression and anxiety, headaches and migraines, and also cognitive problems with memory, thinking, and concentration. About 3% of the general population struggles with this condition, but it is twice as likely to occur in women than in men. Treating fibromyalgia is challenging because of the many different symptoms, and because its cause or causes remain obscure.
Standard Fibromyalgia Treatments
Standard treatments for fibromyalgia include over-the-counter pain medications (NSAIDs), physical therapy, and prescription medications that range from opioid painkillers to seizure medications (Gabapentin), and medications for depression (SSRIs, SNRIs). While patients can benefit from things like acupuncture, yoga, massage, and hydrotherapy, there is a financial barrier to these options if they are not covered by insurance. As a result, many people suffering from fibromyalgia rely largely on prescription medications, some of which can have disruptive and negative side effects.
Cannabis for Fibromyalgia Treatment
62% of medical marijuana patients in the US report chronic pain as their main reason for use . While specific statistics for fibromyalgia are not available, it is reasonable to suspect that cannabis could be a beneficial therapy. In the recent 2022 Israeli study “The role of cannabis in treatment‐resistant fibromyalgia women,” researchers investigated the role of cannabis in treating fibromyalgia.
This small study only monitored patients for short-term improvement. However, a similar 2018 Israeli study titled “Medical cannabis for the treatment of fibromyalgia” also observed that patients felt significant improvement using similar dosages of cannabis. Both studies offered about 20 grams per month of smoked or vaped cannabis flower, but the more recent 2022 study also offered edibles/ingested cannabis as an option. Positive effects were notable for overall quality of life, pain reduction, sleep improvement, and mood. The 2022 study did note that patients were more dependent on their medication when cannabis was offered. They attributed this to the possibility of patients wanting to preserve the great improvements to quality of life that were observed. They also caution that some negative mood impacts were also seen in the study and should be investigated further.
“The patients expressed the effects of the treatment in their own words, and their responses were dramatic. Very rarely as physicians have we encountered such responses in real-life medicine, except possibly among patients treated with steroids for inflammatory conditions, such as polymyalgia rheumatica or rheumatoid arthritis .”
The Future of Cannabis for Fibromyalgia
Along with these three studies, there have also been others that observe positive outcomes in using cannabis for fibromyalgia. However, randomized clinical studies are still needed to assess the efficacy, tolerability, and side effects. If you are interested in using cannabis for fibromyalgia or any other medical condition, it is very important to speak with your doctor. Cannabis is natural, but it can still have side effects, adverse effects, and interactions with other drugs and supplements you take.
- Cameron, E. C., & Hemingway, S. L. (2020). Cannabinoids for fibromyalgia pain: a critical review of recent studies (2015–2019). Journal of cannabis research, 2, 1-11.
- Habib, G., & Artul, S. (2018). Medical cannabis for the treatment of fibromyalgia. JCR: Journal of Clinical Rheumatology, 24(5), 255-258.
- Hershkovich, O., Hayun, Y., Oscar, N., Shtein, A., & Lotan, R. (2022). The role of cannabis in treatment‐resistant fibromyalgia women. Pain Practice.
Sabine Downer is a scientist and cannabis writer with a passion for education. She has been writing for various clients in the cannabis space since 2015 and has worked in biotechnology since 2010. Along with content creation, she is also a knowledgeable resource on quality assurance, regulatory, and legal topics.