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Cannabis for Fibromyalgia

At Revolutionary Clinics, we recently wrote about cannabis and epilepsy despite the fact that this cruel disease only affects 1.2% of the U.S. population.  This month, we’re talking about another somewhat rare, yet devastating condition that we’ve helped several patients manage – fibromyalgia. According to the National Fibromyalgia Association, 10 million people are currently struggling with fibromyalgia. Some patients describe living with fibromyalgia like a bruise over their entire body. They ache all over and have difficulty moving. They’re tired all the time but they’re in so much pain, they can’t sleep. As a result of all these physical challenges, fibromyalgia patients have difficulty focusing and are prone to anxiety and depression as they fight an invisible illness their friends, family and co-workers don’t understand and may not fully believe.

Fibromyalgia is one of the most common forms of chronic pain. The medical community calls it “treatment resistant” which is a nice way to say it has no cure.

Fortunately, a recent study by the National Pain Foundation produced some encouraging data to support the use of cannabis in the treatment of fibromyalgia. This 2014 study included a survey of 1,339 people (96% of whom were female as this disease primarily effects women and teenage girls) who had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. These patients were asked to rate the effectiveness of the three different drugs approved by the FDA – Cymbalta (Duloxetine), Lyrica (Pregabalin) and Savell (Milnacipran) – as well as the effectiveness of cannabis. In a separate report published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. this data was presented in the helpful chart below that illustrates the superior results of cannabis:

As you can see, 62% of the patients described their use of cannabis in the treatment of their fibromyalgia symptoms as “very effective”. In sharp contrast, none of the other pharmaceuticals received a ranking higher than 10%. That’s a stunning difference that supports the use of cannabis as an effective treatment for chronic pain and warrants some conversation on the theory that fibromyalgia could be caused by clinical endocannabinoid deficiency.

That’s a mouthful that we’ll break down as simply as we can:

If you think back to your high school health or science classes you may remember that human bodies are made up of major systems including the circulatory system, the nervous system and the digestive system. What you didn’t learn about, because the research is still so new and the scientific understanding is still growing, is that all of these systems are controlled by the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid systems was hypothesized in 1964 during the same research that identified THC as the active component of cannabis. This hypothesis was not confirmed until 1990 so it is still fairly new and debated within the medical community.

Thanks to the presence of CB1 and CB2 receptors within our endocannabinoid system, our bodies were literally made to interact with the cannabinoids found within the cannabis plant. Thanks to our endocannabinoid system, cannabis doesn’t simply mask or numb chronic pain like pharmaceuticals or opioids do. Cannabis stimulates our endocannabinoid system which sends pain-relieving neurotransmitters to our nervous system which relieves the symptoms of fibromyalgia.

Research on the endocannabinoid system is ongoing as is research on fibromyalgia which to this day, is still not completely understood by the medical community. Some authorities believe fibromyalgia is a disease, while others think it is a nervous disorder. Either way, the benefits of cannabis in the treatment of fibromyalgia can’t be denied and mirror the success we’ve provided for patients with other forms of chronic pain.