Cannabis for Fibromyalgia

Some recent highlights and curiosities from the amazing world of cannabis science and therapeutics.
By Adrian Devitt-Lee On June 22, 2019
"Fibromyalgia" handwritten on a diagnosis pad, surrounded by heaps of white and pink pills, on a white background.

Fibromyalgia is one of many poorly-understood pain conditions that occurs mostly in women. Israeli researchers recently published an observational study of 367 people using cannabis for fibromyalgia, and the results were promising! At the outset, nearly all patients reported severe pain (between 8-10 on a scale from 0-10). After 6 months of cannabis treatment, most people’s pain had decreased to 5. A number of quality of life measures were also much improved, along with sleep, appetite, and sexual activity. Around 20% of people who were taking opioids or benzodiazepines reduced or entirely eliminated their need for these pharmaceuticals. The patients were enrolled in the Israeli medical cannabis program, and their products came from one of 14 standardized strains. The typical daily dose was 1 gram of cannabis that had 15% THC and 4% CBD. The researchers explain that not everyone responded equally well. Those over 60 years old and patients apprehensive about cannabis responded worse to treatment, whereas people with spasticity as an additional complication and those who had used cannabis in the past responded better. From this data, it appears that cannabis can be as effective as other medications used for fibromyalgia (e.g. amitriptyline) — it deserves attention as a possible treatment. But there were some problems and limitations. About 30% of people dropped out of the study, which often inflates the good results. There were some mild side effects, like dizziness, dry mouth, and GI discomfort, although these occurred at low rates, even for studies on cannabis. Additionally, patients were only included in the study if they had failed other pain treatments for at least a year. The worse condition of this population could make treatment more difficult, or can cause false positive results due to regression to the mean.

Short description: 
Adrian Devitt-Lee, Project CBD's chief science writer, is employed as a research chemist by the University College of London.