Is Cannabis Better option in treating fibromyalgia than prescription drugs?
Living with fibromyalgia is truly devastating, simpler chores like cleaning a room, doing laundry or making breakfast can be extremely exhausting.
Fibromyalgia, for long time is still misunderstood and often misdiagnosed, is a complex neurological disorder, and apart from chronic pain is affecting person’s muscles, joint stiffness, chronic fatigue, insomnia, general weakness, headaches, digestive issues, anxiety, and cognitive issues.
What causes Fibromyaliga?
While the cause of fibromyalgia is widely contested, Dr. Ethan Russo, a noticeable neurologist and pharmacologist who has committed much of his professional career studying cannabis and the endocannabinoid system, theorized that fibromyalgia could be related to Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CECD).
The endocannabinoid system is like the Internet of your body — a communications network helping communications between your brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells. The primary goal of the ECS is homeostasis — helping your body in maintain a firm internal environment.
“Medical Marijuana”, Can it be used as treatment for Fibromyalgia?
Hard to treat and almost impossible to cure, many sufferers are curious about whether cannabis can help treat their distress.
Robnett, who is also the founder and executive director of Colorado-based Cannabis Patients Alliance, was one such patient. Recalling how in 1987 a car accident triggered her fibromyalgia, she later learned that an endocannabinoid deficiency could be to blame. She fell to the floor and cried, but her sadness was swiftly replaced with anger. Knowing cannabis might be able to help, she asked, “How could the one thing that could supplement what my body wasn’t making [is something] the government could tell me I can’t have?”
For years Robnett took doctor-prescribed pharmaceuticals, but she hated the side effects and was concerned about drug interactions. “In 2009, I started medical marijuana. By 2011, I had quit all of my pharmaceutical medications and now use cannabis exclusively,” she explained.
Robnett said that at first it took her a bit of trial-and-error, but it didn’t take long for her to become persuaded that cannabis was preferable to pharmaceuticals. “From season to season, even day to day, the severity of symptoms can change because of the weather, stress, or hormones,” Robnett said. “Cannabis allows me to self-titrate. By being able to vary how I consume and types of strains, I can more effectively treat the symptoms.”
At night, Robnett medicates with an edible. Because edibles can take a bit longer to kick in, she begins her routine by vaporizing with an indica strain which quickly enters the bloodstream and instantly provides relief. While vaporizing works quickly, it doesn’t last through the night. “The edible takes much longer to affect me than vaporizing, but lasts much longer, and I can sleep through the night,” she said. “Getting a good night’s sleep helps keep my symptoms under control the next day.”
Prescription Drugs treatment VS Cannabis for Treating Fibromyalgia.
Robnett is not alone in her experience. The National Pain Foundation led a survey in 2014 of over 1,300 patients. Extraordinarily, nearly a third — 30% 0f respondents — reported having used medical cannabis.
390 survey participants who had used cannabis, compared to FDA-approved pharmaceuticals, far more people described cannabis as being effective:
- 62% reported cannabis as “very effective” in treating their symptoms
- 33% reported that cannabis “helped a little”
- Only 5% said it did not help at all
Contrast these results to FDA-approved medications:
- A mere 8 – 10% reported Cymbalta, Lyrica, or Savella as “very effective”
- 60 – 68% responded those drugs “[did] not help at all”
No wonder “big pharma” is scared of cannabis! In the pyramid of evidence, a survey is not slanted the same as a random-controlled trial (RCT). However, given the relative safety profile of cannabis and absence of contrary side effects compared to the FDA-approved medications, the data clearly suggests more research is required.
Synthetic Cannabinoids for Fibromyalgia
There has been just one double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized, controlled trial (RCT) of synthetic cannabinoids. Researchers concluded nabilone was a “beneficial, well-tolerated treatment option” that could be a practical adjunct to other therapies.
But, anecdotally, patients report they favor botanical cannabis. Only 10% to 20% of the THC makes its way into the bloodstream after metabolizing. Furthermore, nabilone doesn’t come cheap! 30 capsules cost more than $1,000.
Robnett is happy with cannabis. “With cannabis I can vary by strain and consumption method according to how I feel or what time of day it is. More importantly, over the 28 years I’ve suffered from this condition, I found cannabis is by far the most effective and efficient treatment.”