Will Marijuana Help my Fibromyalgia Symptoms?

Close up of medical marijuana buds spilling out of prescription bottle with label on black background

Image: Teri Virbickis / Shutterstock

Many who suffer from fibromyalgia come from a generation or worldview that criticizes and forbids the use of marijuana, even for medicinal purposes. However, cannabis (Latin name for the marijuana) has been used as a medicine for at least 5,000 years of recorded history. Interestingly enough, among a variety of ailments and conditions, cannabis was also used to treat pain, inflammation, poor memory, migraines, fatigue, depression, and rheumatism. Sound familiar, fibro sufferers? It has been smoked, eaten, and made into teas and pastes in the medical life of India and China for thousands of years. It was introduced to the U.S. around the turn of the 20th Century by Mexican immigrants. But racism and classism led to the criminalization of marijuana.

Is there any modern proof marijuana works?

Studying the medical benefits of cannabis is largely responsible for the legalization of it. While it has been used in the past as an actual cure for certain conditions, there is no evidence to show that it will specifically cure fibromyalgia. However, there is substantial evidence to show that marijuana can radically improve fibro symptoms ranging from pain and muscle stiffness to insomnia and mood. In fact, fibromyalgia has been linked to an endocannabinoid deficiency that can be treated with cannabinoid medicines.

Furthermore, oncologist and director of clinical research programs at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the UCSF School of Medicine in San Francisco, Donald I. Abrams, M.D., published a related study in The Journal of Neurology. It included a “randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial that demonstrated that smoked cannabis was effective in this situation,” says Abrams. “The people who say there’s no evidence that smoked marijuana has any medicinal benefits really can’t say that anymore. The drug was quite comparable to the best available treatment we currently have for painful peripheral neuropathy” (painful, damaged nerves). For many fibro patients, painful and damaged nerves are the cornerstone of this debilitating condition. Thus, more and more suffering from fibromyalgia are turning to marijuana in various forms as a way to mitigate the incapacitating and weakening effects. And it’s not just young people who are using it, but the ages span across the board.

For example, CNN reported on the use of marijuana for fibromyalgia, beginning with Lynda, a middle-aged mother of three in New York: “I would use [marijuana] when the burning pains started down my spine or my right arm, and shortly after, I found I could continue with housework and actually get more done.” It went on to report that since only 35-40% of fibro patients get relief from prescription medications, some turn to marijuana. If you live in a location where it is legal, you have probably noticed dispensaries popping up all over the place. It may be difficult to determine where to begin, but you may wish to start with a list of top medical marijuana physicians and institutions in the United States, including a few around the world such as Spain, Israel, and Canada for our international readers.

Doesn’t marijuana get you high?

Some people want this effect and others don’t. There are so many varieties of cannabis, including those with higher levels of cannabidiol, which is one of the dozens of cannabinoids that make up the cannabis plant. Leafly is a good place to get you started in exploring the myriad of strain options for treating a host of medical conditions. And as with any fibromyalgia treatment option, you may have to try a variety of strains before you find the one that works for you. In fact, occasionally you’ll even find someone for whom medical marijuana is not particularly effective, other than dulling certain fibro symptoms. However, most fibromyalgia patients who try it as a treatment method are very happy with the results because they have been able to resume life again. Will it help you? The only answer is to try it and see, but do your research first to understand the law and various options. Then tell us your results!

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