1 in 10 fibromyalgia patients uses marijuana to ease pain

1 in 10 fibromyalgia patients uses marijuana to ease pain
They also tend to have poorer mental health, researchers say.

(HealthDay) -- About 10 percent of fibromyalgia patients use marijuana to relieve symptoms such as pain, fatigue and insomnia, a new study has found.

Fibromyalgia is a that causes widespread pain, fatigue, headaches, and other symptoms. It affects up to 3 percent of people and is more common among women.

Standard drug treatments for fibromyalgia-related pain provide only modest relief, and some patients self-medicate with marijuana and other traditional therapies, said Dr. Mary-Ann Fitzcharles, a professor of medicine at McGill University and consulting rheumatologist at the Montreal General Hospital of the McGill University Health Centre in Montreal.

She and her colleagues looked at the use of marijuana or prescription such as nabilone and dronabinol among 302 patients with fibromyalgia and 155 patients with another condition.

About 13 percent of all 457 patients used cannabinoids, with 80 percent using marijuana. Smaller numbers used prescription cannabinoids, according to the study findings published online June 21 in the journal & Research.

Of the patients who smoked marijuana, 72 percent reported using one gram or less per day, though a few smoked significantly more.

Patients who used marijuana were more likely to have unstable mental illness, to seek opioid painkiller drugs and to be unemployed, the investigators found.

"While self-medicating with cannabinoids may provide some pain relief to fibromyalgia patients, we caution against general use of illicit drugs until health and psychosocial issues risks are confirmed," Fitzcharles concluded in a journal news release.

"Physicians should be alert to potential negative mental health issues in fibromyalgia patients using illicit drugs for medical purposes. Some herbal cannabis users may be dishonestly using a diagnosis to justify self-medicating with illegal drugs," she added.

Explore further

Fatigue not a factor in fibromyalgia pain, study says

More information: The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about fibromyalgia.

Journal information: Arthritis Care & Research

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User comments

Jun 22, 2012
A2G, you are indeed correct. The implied bias betrays the underlying passion held by those in authority since the Harrison Act started this whole thing. As far as health risks go, both mental and/or physical, after THOUSANDS of years of use, the risks, if they were significant, would readily apparent by now.
All that being said, it releases dopamine in the brain causing feelings of mild euphoria and satisfaction. Is this bad? The reason some may think so is that dopamine is normally released when an individual does something positive, like completing a difficult task, forming a family, etc. For some, this "dopamine cheat" precludes the motivation to reach one's full potential. For some others, it quiets anxiety, dims violent tendencies.
The truth is, some will use it, some will not. Regardless of the legal status. They will just be more clandestine. Others will make illicit money with it. This is what causes the crime and corruption associated with such illicit funds.

Jun 23, 2012
What is not clear here from the statistics cited is who had fibromyalgia and who had another chronic pain condition and which of them used marijuana at what levels.

It is also unclear whether the mental illness cited is related to the pain or the drug or what the mental illness was. Was it situational depression which is a common and normal response among patients with chronic pain who are not getting relief from the usual treatments? Is it related to the level of disability? Or would the depression be related to the physician related stigma experienced by fibromyalgia patients?

Nor does the article state whether the use, or perhaps more pertinent, the level of use was pre-morbid? In other words are people who used marijuana previously more likely to use it for pain relief of a subsequent pain condition?

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