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Medical Marijuana May Provide Relief Patients Have Been Looking For

Cannabis has been proven in studies to help relieve pain, but newer evidence is showing that it may even help relieve pain for patients suffering from a devastating illness called fibromyalgia. Widespread and chronic pain is a characteristic symptom of the disease, but pain medications do not always bring relief or they cause side effects. Where prescriptions leave off, marijuana may be able to pick up the slack and provide significant relief.

What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a mysterious disease that is still not well understood. It causes pain throughout the musculoskeletal system, as well as fatigue, mood changes, memory difficulties and sleep changes. It is currently believed that the disease is caused by abnormalities in how the brain processes pain signals, causing pain to be amplified. Some people with fibromyalgia develop symptoms gradually and with no obvious underlying cause. Others start to experience symptoms after a physical trauma such as an infection or surgery. It may also begin after a serious psychological trauma, even just a single event. Fibromyalgia is more common in women, and there is no known cure. Medications, physical therapy, counseling, massage, acupuncture and exercise can help relieve symptoms.

Cannabis and Fibromyalgia

One study that has shown the potential of using cannabis to treat fibromyalgia used a marijuana-derived drug called nabilone. In the double-blind study, 40 participants with fibromyalgia were given either nabilone or a placebo. The patients who received the drug reported significant improvements in pain and reduced anxiety, improvements that were not seen in the placebo group. This was a small study, but it shows the potential power of cannabinoids to help people with fibromyalgia. In another study, 56 patients with fibromyalgia were split into two groups, one group who used medical marijuana and one who did not. Researchers evaluated patients in each group and found that hours after using cannabis, participants felt significant pain relief, greater relaxation, a better ability to sleep and a greater overall feeling of well-being. In general, the group who used cannabis regularly had fewer symptoms and better quality of life than the group who did not.

Marijuana and Chronic Pain

Although fibromyalgia causes several symptoms, chronic pain is the most common and debilitating. Marijuana has long been used to treat pain, but there is also more current research that backs up this traditional use and points to a reason patients may want to turn to it for help. One of these studies was a clinical trial that gave chronic pain patients different potencies of marijuana as well as a placebo for a period of two months. The patients didn’t know which concentration they were using or if they were using a placebo. The results showed they saw greatest pain relief with the most concentrated cannabis. Using marijuana for fibromyalgia may become more common in the future. Some patients are already using it and the evidence to support its effectiveness in providing relief is only growing.