World Fibromyalgia Awareness Day: Is Medicinal Cannabis an Effective Treatment?

People around the world will be joining together on the 12th of May, 2022, to hold various events to raise awareness for fibromyalgia, an invisible, exhausting chronic condition.

I, personally, will be working on a protocol for a pilot clinical trial, aiming to determine whether medicinal cannabis can be used as an effective treatment for relieving pain and other symptoms associated with fibromyalgia.

Medicinal cannabis is proven to treat a number of conditions. Is fibromyalgia one of them?

What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes widespread chronic pain, tenderness, and fatigue. People with Fibromyalgia experience heightened sensitivity to stimuli such as pressure, temperature, and sound. Musculoskeletal pain and stiffness are the primary symptoms of Fibromyalgia; however, many patients also have sleep disturbances, difficulty thinking or concentrating (known as "fibro fog"), depression or anxiety, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), painful menstrual periods (dysmenorrhea), numbness or tingling of the extremities (paresthesias), restless leg syndrome (RLS) and jaw pain (TMJ).

The severity of symptoms can range from person to person and fluctuate over time. The most common triggers for Fibromyalgia include infections such as influenza or pneumonia; surgery; physical trauma; emotional trauma; hormonal changes due to pregnancy and menopause; rheumatic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus; some medications including certain antidepressants, blood pressure medications and oral contraceptives; low levels of thyroid hormone.

A common treatment for fibromyalgia is pregabalin (Lyrica). This drug is also used to treat epilepsy and nerve pain. This medication can cause dizziness, drowsiness, blurred vision, and weight gain. Other medications include antidepressants, opioids (painkillers), NSAIDs (anti-inflammatory drugs), and topical pain relief creams.

While there is no cure for Fibromyalgia at this time and no single treatment works best for everyone with the disorder, medical marijuana can play an important role in helping treat the condition by alleviating its most common symptoms: pain and insomnia.

Medicinal cannabis may provide fibromyalgia patients with a natural, effective form of pain relief.

Medicinal cannabis has been used for thousands of years to treat pain and inflammation. The modern, scientific research on the active compounds in cannabis, called cannabinoids, has confirmed that these compounds have potent anti-inflammatory properties and are effective at treating pain.

In 2021 we published a literature review on medical cannabis and fibromyalgia, which included a total of 10 publications (1). We found that most patients who used medical cannabis reported improvement in their pain and sleep quality, as well as their mood, anxiety levels, and ability to function normally. The main side effects identified included feeling “high,” dizziness, dry mouth, cough, red eyes, and drowsiness, with no serious adverse events reported.

Our next step is to conduct clinical trials with patients who have been prescribed medical cannabis for their fibromyalgia symptoms. If you're interested in participating in one of these trials or would like more information about them please let us know!

1. Kurlyandchik I, Tiralongo E, Schloss J. Safety and Efficacy of Medicinal Cannabis in the Treatment of Fibromyalgia: A Systematic Review. J Altern Complement Med. 2021 Mar;27(3):198-213. doi: 10.1089/acm.2020.0331. Epub 2020 Dec 8. PMID: 33337931.

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