Could cannabis be the answer to female fibromyalgia woes? According to a new study, quite possibly.
Published in Pain Practice, the study investigated the potential of using cannabis as an aid for pain relief and improved sleep quality, as well as explored the plant’s remedial action on a psychological and physical level.
Based on the study results, cannabis offers short-term beneficial effects in women with treatment-resistant fibromyalgia. Although women tend to suffer from fibromyalgia twice as much as men, the study findings indicate that the male population may also benefit from cannabis-based medicine.
“As the worldwide use of cannabis rises, investigators question its role in treating fibromyalgia as one of the most common pain syndromes nowadays. Throughout history, different cultures used cannabis to treat pain. Modern medicine found the endocannabinoid system’s role in the pathophysiology of neuropathic pain,” the investigators noted. “Previous studies showed cannabis is efficacious in promoting sleep, deepening, and lengthening the sleep cycle. Other advantages of cannabis treatment include good pain relief without significant side effects.”
Currently, there is no cure for the condition, which is renowned for being difficult to treat. Doctors often dish out prescription drugs, such as opioids (which may be addictive and in thousands of instances, fatal) and antidepressants to blanket the symptoms, instead of targeting the root problem.
Fortunately, amid the rise of medical cannabis, more patients are discovering that the treatment is beneficial for symptom management. Early research from acclaimed cannabis scientist Dr. Ethan Russo hypothesized that fibromyalgia could be sparked by a deficiency in the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
What Did the Study Entail?
The World Health Organization Quality of Life Bref questionnaire (WhoQoL-bref) was used for the study. This straightforward tool assesses patient-reported QoL to get a better understanding of the impact that cannabis treatment had on 30 females aged 18-70 years with treatment-resistant fibromyalgia. Each study subject was defined as having exhausted pharmacological fibromyalgia treatment.
Four domains were focused on in the WhoQoL-bref: psychological, physical health, social relationships, and environment. The questionnaire was completed before cannabis was administered and at the 1-month follow-up. Patients were free to select their preferred route of administration, such as ingestion, smoking, or vaporizing. Patients younger than 18 or older than 70 were not included in the study, nor were those who were pregnant, had cognitive impairment, or were already using cannabis treatment.
The mean age of study subjects was 46 years. They experienced pain and discomfort, dependence on medication, poor QoL, reduced activities of daily living, and poor general health) at baseline before intervention. Environmental factors, such as access to health and social care, financial resources, transport, and physical environment, were high. This signifies fibromyalgia-related morbidity, as opposed to environmental restraints.
Cannabis Improved Psychological and Physical Health in Fibromyalgia Patients
During the follow-up, treatment was linked to enhancement in general quality of life, activities of daily living, psychological domain, general health, physical health, reductions in pain and discomfort, and pain and fatigue. Improvements were also shown in the sub-domain fields within the psychological domain, including self-esteem, recreation and leisure, memory and concentration, positive feelings, and sex. Home environment and financial resources were not impacted by cannabis treatment.
“Results suggest a potentially significant role of cannabis in treatment-resistant fibromyalgia women. Early cannabis treatment may result in a beneficial short-term effect on the quality of life through its influence on pain, sleep, physical and psychological domains,” concluded the study authors. “Further studies are still indicated to understand this potential and its long-term beneficial impact.”