A recent study of the effects of cannabis on fibromyalgia is offering hope to those suffering the effects of this disease for which there is no cure, only ways to minimize its effects. Fibromyalgia is one of the most common chronic pain conditions, affecting between two and four percent of the population, 10 to 12 million people in the United States and one in 20 people globally. While women are most likely to develop fibromyalgia, (90 percent in the U.S.) men and children can also be affected.
It is believed fibromyalgia and its associated heightened pain sensitivity is caused by how the brain and spinal cord interpret and communicate pain. Fibromyalgia also negatively affects sleep patterns, mood, memory and causes fatigue and many also often experience headache, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, anxiety and more. There is no known cure, and treatment typically includes a variety of prescription medications to control symptoms. Reducing stress, exercise and relaxation techniques are also encouraged. Conducted in Milan, Italy at Luigi Sacco Hospital, the study included 102 patients with an average age of 52 and more than 90 percent women, all of whom were taking prescribed medications (opioids, anti-depressants, anti-convulsants and nerve blockers) in order to manage their symptoms.
Even though these drugs are classified as “severe central sedatives,” 47 percent of test subjects received enough relief by using cannabis, that they were able to reduce dosage and 21 percent ceased taking their prescribed medications entirely. The study employed the use of two pharmaceutical grade flowers, one that was fully THC and the other that contained slightly more CBD than THC, referred t as “balanced flower.” This approach was taken in an effort to duplicate how people would typically use these products. Both flowers were made into olive oil-based tinctures, with patients instructed to take a dropper of the balanced tincture in the morning and THC-laden tincture at night.
THC is considered to be a more effective pain reliever and like CBD promotes sleep. However, its psychoactive properties can impair function making daily life and work difficult to navigate while under its effects and is often forbidden by employers. Accounting for the vast ways individuals react to both CBD and THC, rather than prescribe a set dosage, researchers gave a recommendation of between 10 and 30 drops in each dose, allowing up to 120 drops total, per day. Participants were asked to track their individual use. Data collected lead researchers to theorize that while it is inconclusive as to how much treatment individually impacted depression and anxiety, introducing plant cannabinoids seems to have lessened the overall symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Humans have an endocannabinoid system that runs throughout and regulates and balances body system functions including immune response, metabolism, memory, appetite, communication between cells, etc.) it is believed that clinical endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome, wherein this molecular system is taxed, may be the catalyst to such disorders as fibromyalgia and that this therapy not only provides a more safe treatment option than what is currently used, it may actually impact the underlying cause by bringing the endocannabinoid system back into balance rather than temporarily alleviating symptoms.
While not all initial participants saw the study through to the end due to a variety of reasons, the study provided enough data showing this course of treatment can be beneficial. For those living with fibromyalgia and its brutally painful effects, this is a hopeful step in the right direction.
Find the full paper here: www.clinexprheumatol.org/article.asp?a=14785