A new research study found that medical cannabis can improve the efficacy of standard analgesic treatments for fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia (FM) is a condition characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, often experienced alongside sleep and mood disorders, fatigue, and memory issues. Many patients suffering from FM also suffer from temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ), anxiety, depression, tension headaches, and irritable bowel syndrome. There is currently no cure for FM, and doctors generally recommend using over-the-counter painkillers to treat muscle stiffness and pain associated with this condition.
Recent research suggests that cannabis can help treat the chronic pain, inflammation, sleep disorders, and other conditions that most FM patients suffer from. Many prior studies have found that medical cannabis can be an effective alternative to traditional painkillers, but the present study suggests that cannabis can actually boost the efficiency of standard treatments.
Researchers from the rheumatology units of five Italian medical facilities recruited 102 FM patients who had not previously responded well to conventional medical treatments. Each of these subjects was given one of two medical cannabis oil extracts: Bedrocan, a formula containing 22 percent THC content, but less than one percent CBD; and Bediol, an oil containing 6.3 percent THC and 8 percent CBD.
Over the course of six months, patients were given a number of standard questionnaires to assess their FM symptoms, their overall fatigue levels, and their sleep quality. Patients were also asked to self-report their levels of depression and anxiety using standard psychological assessment scales. During the study, patients were allowed to either decrease or quit using the standard analgesics that they were taking to treat their symptoms.
The study, which was just published in the Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology journal, reports that half of the patients experienced fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety after taking the cannabis oils. Only one-third of the subjects said that cannabis treatments improved their FM symptoms, but 44 percent of patients reported improvements in their overall sleep quality. Additionally, 47 percent of subjects were able to reduce their usage of standard analgesics, or even quit using them altogether.
The study authors concluded that medical cannabis therapy [MCT] “offers a possible clinical advantage in FM patients, especially in those with sleep dysfunctions... The retention rate and changes in concomitant analgesic therapy reflect MCT efficacy of the improved quality of life of patients.”
Due to the small subject size and observational nature of the study, researchers recommend that further clinical trials be conducted in order to “confirm these data, identify MCT-responsive sub-groups of FM patients, and establish the most appropriate posology and duration of the therapy.”