A recently published case series in the Journal of Cannabis Research reveals that cannabis may help fibromyalgia patients with pain management. Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread pain in muscles, fatigue, and troubled sleep. It typically affects memory and mood, as well, and is believed to afflict women thrice as often as men. Despite being relatively common, with an estimated prevalence of between 0.5% and 7.0%, the etiology of fibromyalgia is poorly understood. There is currently no cure for the disorder, and many of the available treatments for symptom management—antidepressants, anticonvulsants, opioids, and muscle relaxants—can produce adverse effects or fail to alleviate the symptoms patients find the most difficult to endure.
The paper's author, Dr. Manuela Mazza, performed the study between June 2016 and October 2018 at the pain clinic of Nuovo Ospedale degli Infermi of Podnerano, which is located in Italy’s Piedmont region. A total of 38 patients were included in the initial study, and 30, 18, and 12 patients continued therapy for 1, 3, and 12 months, respectively. Seventeen of the patients who dropped out of the study experienced adverse effects associated with cannabis, none of which were serious. The most common of these effects were mental confusion (37%), dizziness (14%), and vomiting (14%). [Such a high incidence of vomiting is quite odd, since the FDA-approved medications dronabinol and nabilone (two synthetic versions of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary intoxicating agent in cannabis) are commonly prescribed to control nausea and vomiting.]
Despite the relatively high number of patients who opted out of the study prematurely, the results suggest that individuals with fibromyalgia who have not responded well to conventional treatments may experience pain relief with the use of cannabis. Seventeen patients reported decreases in pain intensity of over 30% during the study. Of those 17, 12 patients had a decrease in pain intensity of over 50%. These results continued without the need to increase dosage since no tolerance effect was observed. The dosage was even decreased for four patients. However, cannabis did not appear to mitigate mood disorders associated with fibromyalgia.
The study has several limitations. The two most significant are the lack of a control group and the exclusion of fibromyalgia patients who have responded well to conventional treatments. Still, these findings suggest that cannabinoids may help treat pain associated with fibromyalgia and the results are certainly encouraging.
To read the full study, click here.