Marijuana and Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain syndrome of unknown etiology. The disease is characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and multiple tender points in the neck, spine, shoulders, and hips. An estimated 3 to 6 million Americans are afflicted by fibromyalgia, which is often poorly controlled by standard pain medications.

Fibromyalgia patients frequently self-report using cannabis therapeutically to treat symptoms of the disease, and physicians – where legal to do so – often recommend the use of cannabis to treat musculoskeletal disorders. To date however, only one clinical trial is available in the scientific literature assessing the use of cannabinoids to treat the disease.

Writing in the July 2006 issue of the journal Current Medical Research and Opinion, investigators at Germany’s University of Heidelberg evaluated the analgesic effects of oral THC in nine patients with fibromyalgia over a 3-month period. Subjects in the trial were administered daily doses of 2.5 to 15 mg of THC, but received no other pain medication during the trial. Among those participants who completed the trial, all reported a significant reduction in daily recorded pain and electronically induced pain.

Previous clinical and preclinical trials have shown that both naturally occurring and endogenous cannabinoids hold analgesic qualities, particularly in the treatment of cancer pain and neuropathic pain, both of which are poorly treated by conventional opioids. As a result, some experts have suggested that cannabinoid agonists would be applicable for the treatment of chronic pain conditions unresponsive to opioid analgesics such as fibromyalgia, and they theorize that the disease may be associated with an underlying clinical deficiency of the endocannabinoid system.

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