SEP 13, 2018 10:00 PM PDT

The Use of Cannabis in Treating Fibromyalgia

WRITTEN BY: Amanda Kahl

It has been found that 90% of patients that are diagnosed with fibromyalgia are women, and only a decade ago doctors thought this condition wasn't real and women were hysterical and imagined the disease. It is often misdiagnosed, and the cause of it is still being researched. Scientists do know that having arthritis can increase your chances of getting fibromyalgia, or if you have had a history of emotional and physical abuse.

What exactly is fibromyalgia? Patients who are diagnosed experience widespread chronic muscle pain and tenderness. Along with the main symptoms, it is often accompanied by joint stiffness, headaches, digestive issues, cognitive issues, fatigue, and insomnia. It often spreads to affect connective tissue as well as muscles within the body. Many patients often say that doing everyday tasks are challenging or almost impossible because of the pain they experience. Some scientists have labeled fibromyalgia as a complex neurological disorder, that is where using marijuana as a treatment comes into effect. 

A prominent neurologist and pharmacologist, Dr. Ethan Russo, theorizes that fibromyalgia could be related to CECD (Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency). The endocannabinoid system is, "...a communications network facilitating communications between your brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells. The primary goal of the ECS is homeostasis-helping your body maintain a stable internal environment." When there is a deficiency in the endocannabinoid system, it can throw off the body and make you experience a multitude of problems with your sleep, gastrointestinal health, mood, and many more. Do these symptoms sound familiar? They are prominent in those who suffer from fibromyalgia. 

No studies have been conducted on the use of medical marijuana in patients suffering from fibromyalgia, but a few studies have been performed observing the use of recreational marijuana as a treatment. The real question scientists would like to answer is if the use of medical marijuana will be better for the patient than using prescribed pharmaceutical drugs?

The founder and executive director of Cannabis Patients Alliance in Colorado, Robnett, talks about how medical marijuana has helped her treat the symptoms of fibromyalgia after a car accident triggered her endocannabinoid deficiency, "In 2009, I started medical marijuana. By 2011, I had quit all of my pharmaceutical medications and now use cannabis exclusively." She further explains how it took trial and error but found medical marijuana to sufficiently outweigh the side effects associated with prescribed medicine, "From season to season, even day to day, the severity of symptoms can change because of the weather, stress, or hormones. Cannabis allows me to self-titrate. By being able to vary how I consume and types of strains, I can more effectively treat the symptoms."

In 2014 the National Pain Foundation conducted a survey of 1,300 patients suffering from fibromyalgia, 30% reported having used medical marijuana to treat their symptoms. Those that had used marijuana were asked to compare the effects they observed to the drugs they were prescribed: 

  • 62% reported cannabis as very effective in treating their symptoms
  • 33% reported that cannabis helped a little
  • Only  5% said it did not help at all

While more research and studies need to be performed, and only some patients using medical marijuana as a treatment, it is still a step in the right direction. Those that have used medical marijuana as a treatment are able to compare it to the drugs that they were using, and that is valuable information for both scientists and other sufferers. This information is able to help more people and help to create other treatments with fewer side effects to make the quality of life easier for those diagnosed. 

Sources: LeaflyNCBI

 

About the Author
  • Amanda has a Bachelor's in Biological Sciences from the University of Cincinnati. She has a passion for animals, conservation, and environmental sciences. Through her career in science and research, she is able to develop her passion and hopes to pass on to others the joy of learning about science.
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