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Medical Marijuana and Treatment for Fibromyalgia


Fibromyalgia affects more than 12 million people in America. It’s a debilitating condition that targets the musculoskeletal system, causing widespread pain and fatigue. So much is unknown about fibromyalgia that it often goes misdiagnosed. In fact, the symptoms can vary between different people and mimic other illnesses such as Lyme disease and other rheumatic diseases. To deal with the pain and chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia sufferers have turned to many different treatment options, including medical marijuana.

Cannabis Treatments for Fibromyalgia

Classified as a syndrome, fibromyalgia is a set of symptoms that are similar to arthritis and tendinitis. While arthritis and tendinitis cause localized pain, fibromyalgia causes widespread pain and stiffness, penetrating deep into the muscles and creating tender points. Although doctors have prescribed exercise and medications to help relieve the aches and pains that are associated with fibromyalgia, people have also sought alternative treatments to combat their pain, lethargy and depression.

The federal government has classified marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning that it has a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. Though marijuana is a controlled substance, it was first prescribed as a medicine in 1942 and has since been legalized for medical use in more than 20 states. According to one fibromyalgia sufferer in a CNN Health report, combining medical marijuana with conventional medications alleviated her symptoms and made her more active.

Why Medical Marijuana May Help

Your body produces pain relievers known as endorphins, which are released during times of stress, pain and strenuous exercise. It’s also made up of many complex systems working together to do everything from regulating your heartbeat to digesting your food. The endocannabinoid system is involved in the processes of pain-sensation, mood and more. Marijuana contains various cannabinoids that act very similarly to the ones that occur naturally in your body. As a medical treatment, marijuana may provide many benefits for fibromyalgia sufferers, such as reduced pain and stiffness, improved sleep quality and less anxiety and depression.

A published report showed positive results when testing cannabis on 28 fibromyalgia patients. According to the two-hour study, 28 patients were given cannabis while another 28 patients took nothing. Those who smoked or took cannabis orally showed a significant reduction in pain and stiffness and an increase in overall well-being. Although the study only lasted for two hours and warrants further investigation, it indicated the usefulness of cannabis in those who suffer from fibromyalgia.

Why Isn’t Medical Marijuana Used More?

According to Charles Chabal, a pain management specialist at Evergreen Hospital, marijuana makes you feel good “but so does alcohol.” In a lengthy discussion on WebMD, Doctor Chabal stated that he does not mention anything about medical marijuana to his patients. His biggest problem is that marijuana is an untested herb, so you don’t know what you’re getting when you buy it.

Herein lies the problem with medical marijuana. It’s a complex plant that contains 60 different compounds, each one causing a different effect. Therefore, each individual treatment will yield different and inconsistent results. As such, researchers have created synthetic drugs based on certain compounds in marijuana that help ease fibromyalgia pain and other symptoms.

Marinol and Cesamet are cannabis-based drugs that contain select compounds such as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Doctors often prescribe these drugs to treat anxiety, ease pain and help fibromyalgia patients sleep better. Whereas medical marijuana might not provide the same effectiveness with each use, synthetic versions of cannabis will provide expected results. They are not, however, without their side effects. For example, patients who have taken Marinol claim to have less pain but feel more tired.

Using Medical Marijuana to Treat Fibromyalgia Symptoms

Though more research is necessary to determine marijuana’s effectiveness, some cannabis-related studies have shown to benefit fibromyalgia patients. However, it’s not easy obtaining medical marijuana especially if you live in a state where lawmakers have yet to legalize it. Even in legalized states, it’s closely regulated, and you need a verification card to purchase and possess the drug. For those who have tried it, medical marijuana has proven to be an effective part of their treatment and one that may help others who suffer from the grip of fibromyalgia pain.