Does marijuana work for fibromyalgia? According to a Spanish study published in 2011 the answer is a resounding yes. But, those who have tried marijuana for fibromyalgia don’t need a study to tell them that it works.
In a survey of Fibromyalgia patients about their experience with treatment, marijuana was reported to work better than any of the major three approved fibromyalgia medications; this isn’t surprising really when you consider how well those three DON’T work. I thought I’d do a little more digging to see if I could find any actual medical studies on the use of marijuana for fibromyalgia.
A 2011 Spanish study used multiple surveys to evaluate fibromyalgia patients based on marijuana use and symptoms and compared those who used marijuana to those who did not. The study was fairly small with only 56 patients completing all surveys, 28 marijuana users and 29 non-users. Aside from the use of marijuana the groups were similar with no statistical differences in co-morbid conditions or treatments.
Patients were asked to record the amount, form, and frequency of marijuana use. They recorded their past use, as well as treatment changes. They recording their symptoms, and perceived benefits from cannabis use both before use and after 2 hours of use.
Three other questionnaires were used to compare quality of life between cannabis and non-cannabis users, the Short-Form Health Survey, the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire, and the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index.
Of the 28 cannabis users:
- 20 had never used marijuana prior to using it medically, and 11 had been using it less than a year.
- 46% of those using medical marijuana chose to do so only by eating it (rather than smoking it, or a combination).
- 12 of the patients used it daily, while 11 reported using 2-3 days a week.
- 19 patients reported a reduction in pharmacological treatment since they began using cannabis.
- All associated symptoms showed improvement with 2 hours of cannabis use (it’s not clear how much they are ingesting in this period, or if this is just 2 hours after dose).
- 81% reported improvement in sleep issues,
- 14% reported improvement in headaches;
- perception of well-being was also much higher after use.
- The most common side effect reported was …. sleepiness.
- Higher mental health scores were reported among those using cannabis, however no difference was shown on the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire.
Obviously, this study has some issues in that it relies on self-selection, and self-reporting; however, the report that few of the cannabis users were using prior to trying it for medical purposes yet they found it helpful does lend a bit of validity to the idea that it works. That combined with other reports leads me to believe that legalizing marijuana for medical use would be a very good thing for those of us with Fibromyalgia, and many other conditions.
A 2019 study of medical cannabis users in Isreal looked at fibromyalgia patients who have been referred for medical marijuana treatment over the course of two years (2015-2017). All patients were titrated from a micro-dose up to a point they personally found therapeutic, using marijuana cigarettes. However, the strains varied and were chosen by the individual patient with their provider.
81 % (194 out of 239) of the patients found at least moderate improvement to their symptoms (without experiencing serious adverse side effects) through the use of medical cannabis. 73.4% showed improvements to sleep, while 13% reported that their sleep problems disappeared altogether. 80% of those who had previously reported depression-related symptoms showed improvement. While 193 patients initially reported high levels of pain, only 19 continued to report high levels of pain after 6 months of treatment.
Additionally, 22% of patients said they were able to completely eliminate opiod treatments after incorporating medical marijuana.
This study showed a significant improvement of quality of life for patients after 6 months of medical marijuana treatment.
I know some have major concerns about the negative impacts of smoking marijuana, the risks of it being around others who should not be using it, etc. There are many ways to take cannabis without smoking it, and the legalization of marijuana has only increased those options. Long gone are the days when the only option was smoking marijuana.
Marijuana, just like any other medication, should be kept safely locked away from children or others who should not access it. Medication safety is an issue, and should be a concern for all types of medications, especially if you have children in the house.
Later this month Congress will vote to legalize marijuana at the federal level, removing it from the drug schedule. Of course, the Senate will have to follow, and then it will still be up to each state how they handle access.
As I write this I’m sitting in Colorado where marijuana is fully legal both medically and recreational. There are so many options available, and thanks to science you can pretty much pick and choose the results you want. Whether you just need something that will reduce inflammation and help relax your joints, or you want an alternative to alcohol that gives you a buzz. There are even strains that will increase energy and focus. And, the options for taking it are endless as well, from tinctures, to candy, to smoking it, or even oils that you can incorporate into food.
Several years ago I found CBD oil (one of the two key components in marijuana, but also derived from the hemp plant) and it has been the only thing that has really improved my sleep. Taking CBD oil nightly has done more for my ability to sleep well (and thus feel better the next day) than any pharmaceutical medications I’ve taken in the last decade.
- Medical Marijuana and Chronic Pain
- Legalization of Medical Marijuana and Opioid Overdose
- Every Pain Experience is Different
- How CBD Oil Improved My Sleep
Fiz, J., Durán, M., Capellà, D., Carbonell, J., & Farré, M. (2011). Cannabis use in patients with fibromyalgia: effect on symptoms relief and health-related quality of life. Plos One, 6(4), e18440. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0018440
Sagy, I., Bar-Lev Schleider, L., Abu-Shakra, M., & Novack, V. (2019). Safety and efficacy of medical cannabis in fibromyalgia. Journal of clinical medicine, 8(6), 807.