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Cannabis and fibromyalgia – getting to the root of the condition?



Cannabis Health explores the latest research on the treatment of fibromyalgia with cannabinoids.

By definition, fibromyalgia is a chronic health condition characterised by widespread, severe musculoskeletal pain that affects an estimated five to seven per cent of the global population. 

Patients with the disorder often respond poorly to traditional pain treatments but recent studies suggest that patient response may be more favourable to alternative analgesics, such as medical cannabis and/or cannabinoids. 

Much research is being undertaken through a variety of studies to assess the impact of cannabis-related remedies for the condition and, while the therapeutic potential of these pain treatments remains unclear, we’ve taken a look at the latest results and research that is currently underway. 

Italian scientists at the Luigi Sacco University Hospital in Milan recruited just over one hundred patients to study. Of the 100, 66 were interviewed over six months of treatment, and as women make up the majority of those suffering from Fibromyalgia, 90 per cent of the study participants were female. 

The study focused on treating patients who were regularly and stably taking medication but not finding relief. Most patients were taking to other drugs [as well as the cannabis for the study], with nearly a third taking at least three.  

The drugs already being taken were severe sedatives including opioids, anti-convulsants, nerve-blockers and anti-depressants, however despite the intensity of these medications, 47 per cent of patients got enough relief from cannabis to reduce or cease their painkiller usage. 

Not only were the study results positive when it came to pain relief, but between a third and half of the patients experience additional benefits in relation to sleep, anxiety and depression. 

These results drew the researchers to the conclusion that medical cannabis treatment may certainly be considered for the treatment of fibromyalgia, in particular with the sub-population that also suffers from significant sleep disturbances, and mild anxio-depressive symptoms. 

Dr. Ethan Russo hypothesises that fibromyalgia, along with migraine, may be an expression of a clinical endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome, proposing that certain diseases manifest when the endocannabinoid system is too weak to properly regulate the many physiological systems under its control. 

If endocannabinoid deficits cause certain diseases, then taking plant cannabinoids like CBD and THC will address the root of the disease, rather than merely mitigating some symptoms. That almost half of the study were able to reduce their drug use, and 21 per cent able to stop other medication entirely, demonstrates that the use of medical cannabis treatment is effective for the purpose of fibromyalgia-related pain relief. 

Elsewhere, a study by Brazilian scientists trialled the effectiveness of THC-rich cannabis oil versus placebo in patients with fibromyalgia for eight weeks, with those in the cannabis group receiving 3.6 drops a day (4.4 mg of THC and 0.08 mg of CBD). 

Those in the cannabis group reported an ‘extended significant reduction’ in symptoms which was not experienced by those in the placebo group. 

Reports show that only were pain attacks reduced, but the impact of the intervention on quality of life was evident, resulting in reports of improved well-being and more energy for activities of daily living.

Researchers said: “To our knowledge, this is the first randomised controlled trial to demonstrate the benefit of cannabis oil – a THC-rich whole plant extract – on symptoms and on [the] quality of life of people with fibromyalgia.

“We conclude that phytocannabinoids can be a low-cost and well-tolerated therapy for symptom relief and quality of life improvement in these patients, and we suggest that this therapy could be included as an herbal medicine option for the treatment of this condition in the Brazilian public health system.”

This, and further studies in the Netherlands, Spain and Israel, have shown that taking cannabis and cannabis-related medicines do reduce and relieve pain, but they are unable to identify if this is a result of the CBD or THC compound. 

While studies are still ongoing, it is clear to see that, much like many other pain-related studies, medical cannabis and cannabinoid solutions can make a huge difference to the treatment and relief of the pain caused by fibromyalgia. 

Sarah Sinclair is a respected cannabis journalist writing on subjects related to science, medicine, research, health and wellness. She is managing editor of Cannabis Health, the UK’s leading title covering medical cannabis and CBD, and sister titles, Cannabis Wealth and Psychedelic Health. Sarah has an NCTJ journalism qualification and an MA in Journalism from the University of Sunderland. Sarah has over six years experience working on newspapers, magazines and digital-first titles, the last two of which have been in the cannabis sector. She has also completed training through the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society securing a certificate in Medical Cannabis Explained. She is a member of PLEA’s (Patient-Led Engagement for Access) advisory board, has hosted several webinars on cannabis and women's health and has moderated at industry events such as Cannabis Europa. Sarah Sinclair is the editor of Cannabis Health. Got a story? Email / Follow us on Twitter: @CannabisHNews / Instagram: @cannabishealthmag


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