Fibromyalgia can be a debilitating and extremely painful condition. We examine if medical cannabis could offer some help with symptoms.
Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes pain, fatigue brain fog and causes difficulty sleeping. It also causes memory problems and headaches. It is estimated that may be around 1.5 to 2 million people in the UK with the condition. It is thought to affect more women than men.
There is currently no cure for fibromyalgia but some patients have turned to CBD and cannabis for relief from their symptoms.
One study that tested Bediol, which contains both THC and CBD on patients with fibromyalgia reported a 30 per cent decrease in pain in comparison to those who took a placebo. Bediol is a high-THC variety of cannabis.
Chronic pain studies
A review of studies on THC and CBD for pain found that in twenty-eight trials that were mostly linked to multiple sclerosis, revealed it may help chronic pain.
One study reported the effects of cannabis in 56 participants, predominately women, with fibromyalgia. The group were split between those who did and did not use cannabis. After two hours of using cannabis, they reported a decrease in pain or stiffness and felt sleepier. There was also an improvement in mental health scores.
Fibromyalgia and inflammation
A new study on patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia and other inflammatory rheumatic diseases, reports a reduction in pain levels following medical cannabis use. The study surveyed 319 patients about their use of medical cannabis products. Those with fibromyalgia accounting for 82 per cent of the group, reported a mean pain level reduction of 77 per cent. They also reported sleep quality improvement of 78 per cent. According to the results, the THC concentration, duration of consumption, and dose had potentially significant effects on pain reduction. Only the duration of consumption had an independent significant effect on sleep quality improvement.
Whole plant cannabis
A new review suggests that whole-plant cannabis may provide relief or improve different symptoms experienced by fibromyalgia patients. Researchers examined scientific papers specific to either the use of cannabis or synthetic cannabinoids in fibromyalgia patients. They reported that cannabis or cannabinoids may help with various symptoms and are safe for use in treatment.
The research focused on 313 studies that investigated Nabilone, Dronabinol, Bedrocan, Bediol and Bedrolite.
How do I get medical cannabis?
In the UK, medical cannabis must be prescribed by a doctor. There are a number of clinics around the country that offer medical cannabis for fibromyalgia patients.
A person can self-refer themselves for a consultation at a clinic through the websites. Prior to the consultation, a patient will be asked to gather their notes and information from their GP about their condition which outlines their treatment. Clinics can offer in-person appointments or over Zoom. It may depend on distance or COVID-19 restrictions.
Once a person has been assessed by a doctor, their case is usually examined by a multi-disciplinary team who decide if cannabis may be the right option. If it is, the clinic will speak to the patient about the different options available before sending their prescription to a pharmacy.
The pharmacy will then post the cannabis to the patient. Follow-up appointments will be made at different intervals to discuss the effects of cannabis.
How much does medical cannabis cost?
The cost for a prescription will vary on what type of prescription it is and how much is ordered.
Different clinics or pharmacies may have varying prices for oils or flower. There will also be different prices for initial consultations and follow-up appointments. It is worth checking with the clinic how much they charge for all of these before committing to a consultation. Also, some clinics may have access programs in place to help patients on lower incomes.
Medical cannabis is not widely available on the NHS yet.
What is the best way to take medical cannabis?
This varies from person to person depending on a number of factors. Medical cannabis is usually available in flowers that can be vaped, oil that can be taken orally or topicals that are applied to the skin.
Personal preference may mean that a person prefers vaping to oils because of the taste or topicals rather than flower. For some, taking oral oils may be a problem or they dislike the taste. In selecting a product, it is worth noting what you prefer or switching to another method if the original doesn’t suit you.
Your doctor may also be able to advise you on methods and also what strength of product is needed.
How do I know if medical cannabis works for my fibromyalgia?
Keeping a journal can help with making any notes about changes you experience. It is also helpful to keep a record so that you can let your doctor know at a follow-up appointment if you have experienced anything negative.
Your follow-up appointments will usually involve speaking to a doctor about your cannabis journey. It may also include filling in questionnaires about how you feel physically or mentally. These are designed to highlight any changes which may require your medication to be adapted.
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