Cannabis Patch Targets Fibromyalgia Pain

Could a new application of an age-old herb reduce chronic pain?

The hallmark of fibromyalgia is widespread chronic pain. A few modern medications treat the condition, but a simple herb that comes with its fair share of controversy also shows promise for fibromyalgia. Cannabis—also known as marijuana—has successfully eased fibromyalgia symptoms in small research studies. Looking ahead, a cannabinoid-infused patch to combat fibromyalgia-related pain will soon hit the market.

marijuana plants

Shaking a Sticky Stigma
The cannabinoid pain patch, which is manufactured by a company called Cannabis Science, does not yet have a firm U.S. release date (though dispensaries in Los Angeles are expected to be the first to receive it). Cannabis is not legal at the federal level, but 26 states and the District of Columbia have laws broadly legalizing marijuana in some form.

While many are skeptical about cannabis given its stigma as a recreational gateway drug, its medicinal benefits have a long history of success treating ailments ranging from nausea to breast cancer.

Tapping Into the Power of Cannabinoids
The cannabis patch will deliver high-potency cannabinoid extract through a transdermal adhesive patch. Transdermal means the medication will be absorbed through the skin, then it will travel through the bloodstream.

The application of the drug through the skin has benefits over other types of medicines that are administered orally or intravenously, for example. The patch provides a controlled dose of medication that is also carefully released. The patch may release the medication by using a porous membrane that encourages a gradual release of medication into the skin, or through adding medication within the adhesive that melts from the patient’s own body heat.

After entering the bloodstream, the cannabinoid extract in the patch goes to the central nervous system to reduce pain. High-potency cannabinoid extract acts as a pain reliever and anti-inflammatory agent—its pain-killing properties are similar to the natural painkillers produced in your body. Cannabinoids are so effective at reducing swelling and pain that some studies have found it more effective than traditional pharmaceutical anti-inflammatories.

Fibromyalgia and Cannabis: What the Research Says
As modern applications for medicinal cannabis hit the market, the need for research supporting marijuana’s health properties will increase.

Past studies on cannabis’ effectiveness with fibromyalgia are particularly promising. A 2010 study showed that a cannabis-based drug improved sleep in fibromyalgia patients. A 2014 online survey by the National Pain Foundation and National Pain Report revealed that medical marijuana more effectively treats fibromyalgia than the three prescription fibromyalgia drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Of the respondents who tried cannabis for their pain, 62% said it was very effective at managing their fibromyalgia symptoms, while 33% said it helped a little, and only 5% said it didn’t help at all.

Could Cannabis Ease Your Fibromyalgia Pain?
While more research is necessary to fully understand cannabis’ long-term impact on people with fibromyalgia, it may be an option to ease your chronic pain. Before starting any treatment—whether mainstream or alternative—speak with your doctor to make sure it’s a safe option for you.

Updated on: 04/19/17
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