Ten percent of individuals suffering from fibromyalgia (FM) buy marijuana illegally in order to relieve pain, according to a study published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research.

Dr. Mary-Ann Fitzcharles, a rheumatologist at the McGill University Health Center (MUHC), who led the study explained: "Fibromyalgia affects up to three per cent of the population and is more common in women. Unfortunately, FM pharmacologic treatments for pain have modest results, prompting some patients to self-medicate with more non-traditional therapies, such as marijuana."

The researchers evaluated cannabinoid use in 457 FM patients receiving treatment at the MUHC Alan Edwards Pain Management Unit. They discovered that 13% of patients used cannabinoids in order to alleviate symptoms, such as fatigue, insomnia, and widespread pain, and 10% of participants bought marijuana illegally.

The team found that marijuana users were more likely to:
  • be men
  • display opioid drug-seeking behavior
  • have an unstable mental illness
Furthermore, 77% of cannabis users were unemployed. According to the researchers, they may be due to ineffective pain control or a more serious functional disability.

Although few studies have been conducted about FM prevention, studies have shown that FM patients who exercise and stay in the workforce have better outcomes. The researchers highlight these patients who work probably do better because they are not focusing on their pain. Dr. Fitzcharles, said:

"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.

Physicians should also be alert to potential negative mental health issues with these patients using illicit drugs for medical purposes, and that some cannabis users may be dishonestly using a FM diagnosis to justify self-medicating with illegal drugs."

Written By Grace Rattue