For the millions of people around the world suffering from the effects of fibromyalgia, medicinal cannabis could offer hope.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition with no cure that includes widespread pain in the muscles and bones among its many symptoms. The effects can range from uncomfortable to debilitating. The symptoms of the condition are sometimes treated with opioid-based medications, which add problems of their own.
Fibromyalgia affects anywhere between 2-5% of the population, meaning it is a significant health problem. It also has significant economic implications, with a study published in 2015 putting the average annual cost per patient in the US in the range of $2,274 to $9,573.
There is growing interest in the use of medicinal cannabis as a potential treatment, particularly given the cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD), which has anti-inflammatory properties.
While there is a fair amount of anecdote to suggest that cannabis can be beneficial, scientific studies are scarce.
A recently published study conducted with a small group of fibromyalgia patients in Israel is helping to build knowledge.
In the study, all 26 patients reported significant improvement in all areas covered in the Revised Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire, a commonly used tool in patient assessment. In addition, half of these patients were able to stop their other medications. Only 30% of the patients experienced side effects, which in all cases were mild.
There are many more studies on the possible benefits of using medicinal cannabis in the treatment of fibromyalgia. In December 2016, we reported that the Canadian Arthritis Society had received a research grant using oral cannabinoids in the treatment of the condition. The results of the study don’t seem to have been released yet, and it’s not clear if they’ve even started.
In 2014, an online survey of more than 1,300 fibromyalgia patients conducted by the National Pain Foundation and National Pain Report found sixty-two percent who had tried cannabis reported that it was very effective in treating their fibromyalgia symptoms. The report found that cannabis is considered more effective than any of the three prescription drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat fibromyalgia.