Rowan Bailey

June 8th, 2023

Can Cannabis Really Help Treat Fibromyalgia? The UK Study Results Are In

We dive into Cannabis and Fibro as well as the results from this recent study! 

*It's important to do you own research, compare studies and come to your own conclusions. Any positives or statements seen as medical claims should be taken with a healthy pinch of salt, and investigated further. Although CBD is mentioned in this article, the benefits relating to the study are with prescriptive use of CBD alongside THC products.*

As someone who has been living with fibromyalgia for years, I am always on the lookout for new treatments that can help alleviate my symptoms as well as any new results from studies. Recently results from a UK study on Cannabis and fibromyalgia were released by Sapphire Clinic, and as I was a part of this study I was intrigued about what the latest findings were.

I have personally been part of the Sapphire Medical cannabis program where as part of my treatment, I report back with a regular in depth survey about my fibromyalgia symptoms amongst other things about my treatment such as any adverse effects experienced etc. Now over two years into this treatment, I couldn’t help but wonder if other patients with Sapphire were having the same results for their Fibro as I was. Thankfully, they have now released some information on their study, so it’s time to jump in and find out what’s what so far!

Could this controversial plant really hold the key to managing our condition in terms of improving quality of life? In this article, we will dive into the study results and explore the potential benefits and risks of using cannabis for fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia Symptoms
Cannabis and Fibromyalgia

Table of Content

  • Understanding Fibromyalgia
  • What is Cannabis and how it works
  • UK Studies on Cannabis and Fibromyalgia
  • Fibromyalgia Study Results and Analysis
  • Benefits of Cannabis for Fibromyalgia Patients
  • Risks and Side Effects of Using Cannabis for Fibromyalgia
  • Legal Considerations for Using Cannabis for Medical Purposes
  • Other Alternative Treatments for Fibromyalgia
  • Legal Considerations for Using Cannabis for Medical Purposes
  • Conclusion and Future Research Directions

Understanding Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterised by widespread pain, fatigue, sleep disturbances, and cognitive difficulties. The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, but it is believed to be related to abnormalities in the way the brain processes pain signals.

There is currently no cure for fibromyalgia, and treatment is focused on managing symptoms. One of the biggest issues those with fibro face is that for many it’s an invisible and erratic disease.

Just because you have fibro doesn’t always mean you can’t work/ be functional, and it’s often invisible to others. It is very hard for someone who hasn’t had it to understand how it can impair things. Looking at me you wouldn’t know the level of pain/ lethargy that I face daily, but I’ve made my life and work manageable around the fact that sometimes I have to drop everything to a base level to manage my symptoms.

It’s a cruel condition to have, and as time passes more and more people know of someone who has it, or understand more about what it can be like living with it. 

Just because you have fibro doesn’t always mean you can’t work/ be functional, and it’s often invisible to others.

What is Cannabis and how does it work?

Cannabis, also known as marijuana or hemp, is a plant that contains over 100 unique chemical compounds called cannabinoids. The most well-known cannabinoids are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol).

THC is the psychoactive compound that produces the "high" associated with cannabis use, while CBD is non-psychoactive and has been shown to have potential therapeutic benefits.

Cannabis works by interacting with the body's endocannabinoid system, which plays a role in regulating pain, mood, appetite, and other functions. The endocannabinoid system consists of receptors located throughout the body that respond to cannabinoids like those found in cannabis.

UK Studies on Cannabis and Fibromyalgia

Recently Sapphire Clinic have released a statement about the ongoing results of their study, so I excitedly wanted to find out more to see if others were experiencing the same positive effects that I was.

“The UK Medical Cannabis Registry, launched by Sapphire Medical Clinics in 2019, is the first registry in the UK to gather data on the outcomes of medical cannabis treatment, including product formulations, patient demographics, patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs), and adverse events (AEs).

The current analysis assessed data from patients in the UK with fibromyalgia who had received cannabis-based medical products (CBMPs).

The data assessed in this study were reported electronically by patients or contemporaneously by clinicians during initial clinical consultations. PROMs from baseline to 1-, 3-, 6-, and 12 months were the primary outcome measure. Secondary outcomes were the incidence and severity of adverse events. “

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UK Cannabis and Fibromyalgia Study Results and Analysis

While the study results are promising, it's important to note that more research is needed to confirm these findings and to determine the optimal dosing and duration of treatment.

It's also worth noting that the cannabis-based medicine used in the study contains feedback from patients using a range of different CBPM (Cannabis Based Prescription Medications) meaning that some may have found some strains more beneficial than others, it will vary for all fibromyalgia patients. Some patients may benefit more from a higher CBD to THC ratio, as CBD has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties without the psychoactive effects of THC. I for one had to find the balance between using high end THC flower and our CBD oil to combat the core pain issues, whilst still remaining productive and balanced in my day due to work and family commitments. I don’t want to feel ‘high’ when I’m going around my day, and as I already struggle with fatigue at times, it certainly isn’t something that helps in the middle of the day if it’s the wrong dose, or I don’t balance it with CBD effectively.

So let’s get to it, what were the outcomes: 

Primary Outcomes

The results of the current analysis demonstrated an associated change in clinical outcomes in patients following prescription of CBMPs at up to 12 months. This included statistically significant changes in validated fibromyalgia-specific pain, sleep, anxiety, and health-related quality of life (HRQoL) scales. Fibromyalgia Symptom Severity scores were observed to change from baseline up to six months. This finding was similar to previous studies that assessed the effects of CBMP using the Revised Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire. Participants also reported changes in pain severity, as demonstrated by the EQ-5D-5L-Pain and Discomfort scores and VAS-Pain scores.HRQoL, as measured using the EQ-5D-5L index value, was seen to change at every follow-up compared to baseline. 

Secondary Outcomes

Seventy-two participants (23.53%) reported 979 adverse events, the most common being fatigue (n = 75, 24.51%), dry mouth (n = 69, 22.55%), concentration impairment (n = 66, 21.57%), lethargy (n = 65, 21.24%), headache (n = 64, 20.92%), and somnolence (n = 59, 19.28%). Most adverse events were moderate (n = 436, 142.48%) or mild (n = 401, 131.05%) and none were considered life-threatening or disabling.“

So what does that all mean? My takeaway is that it does in fact seem that others were having similar results, but as you can see, cannabis isn’t the miracle cure and comes with side effects that some experience. So as with all things fibro, it’s worth considering how this could help you, and how it may add to your symptoms with certain side effects.

For me, my fibro symptoms present in daily cramping pains, lethargy and in turn other issues. My CBPMs have not removed this from my life, but they have given me back a level of control that has drastically improved my quality of life. So with that extra margin I have in the day without pain or lethargy, I’ve now been able to rebound back in other ways.

Benefits of Cannabis for Fibromyalgia Patients

Despite the need for more research, there does seem to be potential benefits of using prescription cannabis for fibromyalgia patients.

The results show that Cannabis has had a certain level of pain-relieving properties and may also help improve sleep and reduce anxiety. Additionally, some fibromyalgia patients have reported that cannabis helps them better manage their symptoms and improve their overall quality of life.

As much as these all sound great, but we would urge you as always to look out for other sources, studies and those within support groups for fibro to also see what their experiences have been, and how they could align with your specific needs. We are not doctors, and are simply sharing our personal experience and our take on the results of the study. 

Risks and Side Effects of Using Cannabis for Fibromyalgia

While cannabis may offer potential benefits for fibromyalgia patients, it's important to be aware of the risks and side effects. Cannabis use can cause dizziness, dry mouth, and nausea, as well as impair cognitive function and motor skills.

Additionally, long-term cannabis use has been linked with an increased risk of psychosis and addiction, although this is being disputed in current studies it is vital that we all get up to date with the current studies and findings.

It's also important to note that cannabis use may not be safe for everyone, especially those with a history of addiction or mental health issues. It's important to discuss the potential risks and benefits of cannabis use with a healthcare provider before trying it as a treatment option.

Cannabis is not risk free, and does need to be considered just like any other prescription drug in terms of long term effects and managing the benefits alongside the side effects.

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Legal Considerations for Using Cannabis for Medical Purposes

It is still illegal without prescription

In the UK, Cannabis is classified as a Schedule 1 drug, which means it is not recognised as having any therapeutic value and is illegal to possess or supply. This of course drastically contradicts the fact that the UK has been one of the biggest exporters of medical Cannabis for a long time.

Since 2018 there are some exceptions for medical use. The UK government legalised medical Cannabis, but access remains limited and strictly regulated.

Strict criteria, are you eligible? 

To legally access medical cannabis in the UK, a patient must have a prescription from a specialist doctor and meet certain criteria. The use of this prescription for the patient is approved by a medical board after a formal consultation IF they meet the strict criteria. 

How do you apply for medical cannabis in the UK? 

If you want to learn more about Medical Cannabis in the UK including where to apply if you think you’re eligible click HERE. 

Other Alternative Treatments for Fibromyalgia

While cannabis may offer potential benefits for fibromyalgia patients, it's not the only treatment option available.

Other alternative treatments include acupuncture, massage therapy, cognitive-behavioural therapy, and low-impact exercise like yoga or swimming.

Additionally, there are several medications approved for the treatment of fibromyalgia, including antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and muscle relaxants. These medications can help manage symptoms like pain, fatigue, and sleep disturbances. Even if you go down the medical cannabis route, you can still talk about these other options with your doctors as part of your treatment regime to find a balance that works for you. 

Conclusion and Future Research

While the UK study on Cannabis and Fibromyalgia is promising, more research is needed to confirm the findings and determine the optimal dosing and duration of treatment.

It's also important to be aware of the potential risks and side effects of cannabis use and to discuss these with a health care provider and checking this against a broader range of sources. Not all health care providers are up to date, but there are constant studies being done and support groups to talk about this to peers who may have also tried these treatments.

This is new emerging industry in the UK bound by strict regulations that has made it difficult for supply chains, strain options and consistency. So the fact that we are seeing these kinds of results are promising due to these issues. As things progress, strains specific to fibro emerge, and a broader range of consumption methods become to standard, we as fibro sufferers will really be able to dial in and manage our symptoms better than ever. 

I for one am tentitively excited about what's to come! 

I hope this article has been help, and for those who want to read the full article from sapphire you can read it HERE

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