Fibromyalgia is a common disease impacting millions of adults in the United States. The condition can be extremely debilitating, causing pervasive bodily pain, trouble sleeping, and depression. Due to its poorly understood pathophysiology, the disease is challenging to treat and usually involves a combination of medication and lifestyle modifications. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved a handful of drugs such as certain antidepressant and anticonvulsive medications for the treatment of fibromyalgia; however, they may not be particularly effective, and in fact, are not approved by the European Medicine Agency. Due to the mysterious nature of fibromyalgia, patients can go years and see multiple doctors before receiving a correct diagnosis. This can make the disease very costly from a financial perspective as well. One of the hypotheses regarding the pathophysiology of fibromyalgia involves the dysfunction of pain modulatory systems such as the endocannabinoid system. Although this theory is far from conclusive, it has led many to postulate that cannabis could be helpful for the treatment of fibromyalgia.
In August 2021, a systematic review of available studies was published examining whether cannabis can help manage fibromyalgia. This review looked at 22 studies, including systematic reviews and randomized clinical trials. Although the results of selected studies were mixed, some demonstrated that cannabis could improve quality of life, promote better sleep, and reduce symptoms in those with fibromyalgia. Earlier studies have also shown the efficacy of cannabis for the treatment of fibromyalgia.
In 2019, the results of a prospective cohort study involving 367 participants were published. The study demonstrated that cannabis significantly reduced pain intensity and improved quality of life for fibromyalgia patients after six months of cannabis treatment. This study was significant given the extended follow-up period and large cohort size, which controlled for major limitations of other trials investigating cannabis as a treatment for fibromyalgia.
Although additional randomized controlled trials will be needed to clearly establish cannabis as an efficacious and safe treatment for fibromyalgia, the results of available studies are promising. Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic has put an additional physical and mental strain on those suffering from this condition due to influences such as social isolation. Taken together, the lack of efficacious treatments for fibromyalgia, present life stressors we face, and promising results of available literature, the continued exploration of cannabis as a treatment for fibromyalgia is most certainly worthwhile.