The main reason people with fibromyalgia turn to medical cannabis 

8th November 2021

A new study has found that patients with fibromyalgia tend to choose medical cannabis to improve sleep problems and other unpleasant symptoms.

According to ‘Factors Associated with Pain Reduction and Improved Well-Being Among Fibromyalgia Patients Using Medical Cannabis’, a study published in the American College of Rheumatology, those with fibromyalgia are “increasingly” turning to medical cannabis.

What is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is the second most common rheumatological chronic issue – it is estimated that 3-6% of the world’s population suffers from the condition.

In a heartbreaking documentary about people’s struggle with chronic pain, Dr Mikael Sodergren from Sapphire Clinics said: “Fibromyalgia is a difficult condition to diagnose. We don’t have a blood test that tells us somebody has fibromyalgia.

“It’s a diagnosis that is often made on the description of the symptoms that the patient has. It’s associated with some muscle weakness, but it can affect many parts of the body.”

Fibromyalgia is characterised by prolonged pain, soreness, and fatigue. In fact, it affects around 10 million people in the US alone. Yet treatment for the condition remains fairly unreliable, with many patients being prescribed highly addictive opiates.

This is where medical cannabis comes into the picture. According to several studies from the last few years, while opiates are often unable to mitigate the symptoms effectively, many patients report a positive change after medical cannabis had been administered.

Dr Sodergren added: “Chronic pain is a real issue for so many individuals. With cannabis, a new type of medicine which works a completely different way to anything else we have, we have a new weapon to fight some of the issues to do with chronic pain.”

What does this new study say?

The findings of this recent study also support the potential of medical cannabis as an aid for those with fibromyalgia. Those surveyed have reported “significant improvement” in pain sensitivity and well-being after the initiation of medical cannabis treatment.

According to the researchers, a so-called “multilevel mediation analysis” subsequently revealed that reductions in pain intensity were mediated by reductions in negative affect (i.e., anxiety, depression) and sleep problems.

Improvements in well-being were mediated by reductions in negative affect and pain intensity. Medical cannabis was continued by 74%, 58.8%, 39.6%, and 23.1% of fibromyalgia patients at the three, six, nine, and 12-month time points, respectively.

Surprisingly though, the likelihood of treatment discontinuation was higher among patients with higher levels of pain and negative affect but was unrelated to the degree of improvement in these symptoms over the course of medical cannabis treatment.

In conclusion, the authors said: “Our findings suggest that reductions in negative affect and sleep problems are important contributors to improvements in pain intensity and well-being among [fibromyalgia] patients using [medical cannabis].

“Discontinuation of [medical cannabis] was more common among those with higher levels of pain and negative affect but was not related to symptom improvement.

“These findings are a move towards precision medicine in [medical cannabis] recommendations for treatment of [fibromyalgia].”

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