Study Finds Cannabis Oil An Effective Treatment For Fibromyalgia
Researchers in Brazil have found that cannabis oil can be an effective treatment for patients with fibromyalgia, according to the results of a clinical trial completed recently. An abstract of the study, “Ingestion of THC-rich cannabis oil in people with fibromyalgia: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial,” was published last week in the journal Pain Medicine.
To conduct the study, researchers tested the effectiveness of a plant-derived cannabis oil on 17 women with fibromyalgia (FM), a chronic pain syndrome characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain and fatigue. The patients were treated over a period of eight weeks with a cannabis oil rich in THC. The initial dose was one drop per day, with subsequent dosage increases according to symptoms. The mean dose for those in the cannabis group was 3.6 drops per day, equating to a total of 4.4 milligrams of THC and 0.08 milligrams of CBD per dose.
Patients were separated into two groups, one of which received the cannabis oil, while the members of the control group received a placebo. The Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ) was administered at pre- and post intervention moments and in five visits over eight weeks. The researchers reported that “the impact of the intervention on quality of life in the cannabis group participants was evident, resulting in reports of well-being and more energy for activities of daily living. Pain attacks were also reduced.”
First Gold-Standard Study
“To our knowledge, this is the first randomized controlled trial to demonstrate the benefit of cannabis oil – a THC-rich whole plant extract – on symptoms and on quality of life of people with fibromyalgia,” the investigators wrote. “We conclude that phytocannabinoids can be a low-cost and well-tolerated therapy for symptom relief and quality of life improvement in these patients, and we suggest that this therapy could be included as an herbal medicine option for the treatment of this condition in the Brazilian public health system.”
Because of the impact that fibromyalgia can have on the health of patients and the need for effective and affordable medicines to treat them, the researchers recommended further research to study cannabis as a treatment for the condition.
“Considering the far-reaching damage caused by FM and the effect it can have on individuals, their families, communities, and the public health system, it seems necessary to study alternative, low-cost, and well-tolerated therapies that help patients to regain their well-being and quality of life,” the wrote. “The present study aims to evaluate the impact that cannabis oil—a THC-rich whole plant extract—can have on symptoms and quality of life of individuals afflicted by FM.”
Paul Armentano, the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), commented on the research in a statement from the group on Friday.
“The demonstration of safety and efficacy in this gold-standard model is significant,” Armentano said. “Millions of Americans suffer with FM – a condition that tends to be poorly controlled by standard medicines. These clinical findings indicate that for many of these patients, plant-derived cannabis preparations may be a safe and effective alternative.”
People with Fibromyalgia Are Substituting CBD for Opioids to Manage Pain
Fibromyalgia is one of many chronic pain conditions that remains stubbornly difficult to treat
Michigan Medicine – University of Michigan
As the ravages of the opioid epidemic lead many to avoid these powerful painkillers, a significant number of people with fibromyalgia are finding an effective replacement in CBD-containing products, finds a new Michigan Medicine study.
CBD, short for cannabidiol, is the second most common cannabinoid in the cannabis plant, and has been marketed for everything from mood stabilization to pain relief, without the intoxicating effects produced by the most common cannabinoid, THC. THC, which stands for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is the ingredient in marijuana that causes people to feel high.
The cannabis industry has exploded, aided by the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana in states around the United States and the removal of hemp-derived CBD from Schedule 1 status—reserved for drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse—at the federal level.
Previous research shows that some people substitute medical cannabis (often with high concentrations of THC) for opioids and other pain medications, reporting that cannabis provides better pain relief and fewer side effects. However, there is far less data on CBD use.
"CBD is less harmful than THC, as it is nonintoxicating and has less potential for abuse," said Kevin Boehnke, PhD, a research investigator in the Department of Anesthesiology and the Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center. "If people can find the same relief without THC's side effects, CBD may represent a useful harm reduction strategy."
Boehnke and his team surveyed people with fibromyalgia about their use of CBD for treatment of chronic pain.
"Fibromyalgia is not easy to treat, often involving several medications with significant side effects and modest benefits," Boehnke explained. "Further, many alternative therapies, like acupuncture and massage, are not covered by insurance."
Related Article Series: The Case for Cannabis
For this study, the team focused on 878 people with fibromyalgia who said they used CBD to get more insight into how they used CBD products.
The University of Michigan (U-M) team found that more than 70 percent of people with fibromyalgia who used CBD substituted CBD for opioids or other pain medications. Of these participants, many reported that they either decreased use or stopped taking opioids and other pain medications as a result.
"I was not expecting that level of substitution," said Boehnke, noting that the rate is quite similar to the substitution rate reported in the medical cannabis literature. People who said they used CBD products that also contained THC had higher odds of substitution and reported greater symptom relief.
Yet the finding that products containing only CBD also provided pain relief and were substituted for pain medications is promising and merits future study, noted Boehnke.
The team noted that much of the widespread use of CBD is occurring without physician guidance and in the absence of relevant clinical trials. "Even with that lack of evidence, people are using CBD, substituting it for medication, and doing so saying it's less harmful and more effective," he said.
Boehnke stressed the need for more controlled research into how CBD may provide these benefits, as well as whether these benefits may be due to the placebo effect.
Clinically, opening up lines of discussion around CBD use for chronic pain is imperative, said Boehnke, for medication safety reasons as well as for "enhancing the therapeutic alliance and improving patient care."