An Israeli study involving hundreds of fibromyalgia patients has found the use of cannabis in managing the condition is effective and safe.
A chronic condition that has no cure, fibromyalgia involves widespread pain to varying degrees in the muscles and bones. Some patients may find the condition bothersome, others crippling. According to the USA’s National Fibromyalgia Association, it’s one of the most common chronic pain conditions and affects an estimated 3-6% of the world’s population. It is more prevalent in women than men.
Opioids are among the current treatments for managing the condition, which involves risk of side-effects, abuse and addiction. Anti-depressants and anti-seizure medications are more commonly prescribed, each with their own issues, or over the counter medicines such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
The results of a prospective observational study of 367 patients with fibromyalgia using cannabis has found many experienced benefits. Of the 70.8% who answered a follow-up questionnaire after six months, 194 patients (81.1%) achieved treatment response. The most common adverse effects reported were mild; including dizziness (7.9%), dry mouth (6.7%), and gastrointestinal issues (5.4%).
The researchers, which hail from Soroka University Medical Center, Rabin Medical Center and Tikun Olam*, concluded:
“Medical cannabis appears to be a safe and effective alternative for the treatment of fibromyalgia symptoms.”
The study results have been published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine.
This was an important study as there has been little evidence published, other than anecdotal, on the efficacy of cannabis in treating this condition that affects hundreds of millions of people.
Last year, we reported on a much smaller study (26 patients) that found significant improvement in all areas covered on the Revised Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire; a commonly used tool in the evaluation of fibromyalgia patients.
Another small study back in 2011 found cannabis use among fibromyalgia patients was associated with a reduction in pain and stiffness, enhancement of relaxation, an increase in somnolence (drowsiness) and feeling of well- being; although that the latter three occurred was hardly surprising.
* Tikun Olam is a medical cannabis company