Cannabis and Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a syndrome that afflicts patients with chronic pain. The pain can become so debilitating that trying to complete even mundane, everyday tasks like laundry or cooking can be exhausting efforts that are impossible to achieve.
Based on facts from the National Institutes of Health, more than 5 million Americans suffer from fibromyalgia. Most of the afflicted are women1. As quoted by Teri Robnett, a medical marijuana patient’s rights advocate from Denver and Fibromyalgia sufferer: “There used to be days that I didn’t feel like I could get through the day. I just wanted to cry and go back to bed.”2
Symptoms Treated by Cannabis
Among the symptoms associated with fibromyalgia, most commonly fatigue, deep tissue and joint pain, headaches, depression, and lack of sleep, medical marijuana appears to have the most effect on these:
- Joint Pain – Medicinal cannabis contains compounds that can provide some relief from fibromyalgia pain. Two of the ingredients have been studied frequently and shown to offer some relief: THC and cannabidiol (CBD)3. As THC has similarities to cannabidiol chemicals that are naturally found in the human body, the cannabinoid receptors in the brain are stimulated, which in turn triggers the reward system of the brain and helps to reduce pain.
- Fatigue – There are strains of medicinal cannabis that help improve energy and significantly reduce fatigue. With fibromyalgia, the symptoms of fatigue manifests itself in a number of ways, such as depression, stress, insomnia, or some other type of energy-depleting disorder4. Taking the right strain of medicinal cannabis can help boost a patient’s energy enough to make them feel like moving again.
- Insomnia – Certain cannabis strains are more effective on insomnia than others. Some of the strains that have been recommended are ones that help sedate patients, giving them more of desire to sleep. For example, Indicas seem to help treat insomnia better than others5. Edibles are strains than can help patients remain asleep for longer periods of time, even though they may take longer to take effect than those that are inhaled6. Cannabis that has been aged may have more intense sleep effects than fresher marijuana. That’s because it has more elevated levels of a chemical that causes sedation called cannabinol (CBN)7.
- Anxiety – There have been drugs that are cannabis-based that have been shown to hold promise for treating symptoms of anxiety in fibromyalgia patients. In a 2008 Canadian study, a compound that was marijuana-based called “nabilone” helped to reduce anxiety in over 40 patients suffering from fibromyalgia, as well as pain8.
In 2014, the National Pain Foundation surveyed over 1,300 patients with fibromyalgia. Almost a third of the respondents had admitted to using medicinal marijuana to help treat their symptoms9. In fact, over 62% found cannabis to be a “very effective” symptom reliever. Approximately 33% said that the use of medical marijuana “helped a little” with their symptoms, and only about 5% confirmed that there was no effect at all with its use10.
We are in the early stages of learning, studying and understanding the most effective and safe uses of the marijuana plant, but there is much in the way of supporting evidence that with the legalization of cannabis across many states, greater acceptance from the medical community on the symptom-relieving benefits of cannabis, plus dispensaries opening in greater numbers for legal purchases of marijuana in various forms, patients who seek medical marijuana for their relief will be able to take advantage of this alternative form of treatment without any stigmas.
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