Thank you for your interest in this ebook that I created for the 2016 Fibromyalgia Summit.
It summarizes many of the recent scientific studies on the medical use of marijuana and cannabinoids for pain. (Sorry, it doesn’t dive into the legal or political arenas).
While I know that this plant has been used medicinally for thousands of years, and there are thousands of people who it helps with multiple conditions, the medical research is still ongoing.
This report focuses on marijuana and cannabinoids specifically for pain; however it is also being researched for a lot of other conditions like post traumatic stress disorder, multiple sclerosis and several neurological diseases as well.
Reading this report can give you a snapshot of the medical information published in the past few years about marijuana and cannabinoid use for treatment of chronic pain.
Why medical marijuana for chronic pain?
Even though I am a Registered Holistic Nutritionist with a Master’s degree in Toxicology and Nutrition, and over a decade experience in pharmaceutical safety, I started this report knowing very little about fibromyalgia, chronic pain, or medical marijuana.
After a Skype call with the organizer of the Fibromyalgia Summit, I started looking into ways I could use my “science-based, holistic approach” to create a meaningful contribution for the online summit. I came upon this video from “One Minute Medical School” that inspired me to dig into the research on the use of cannabinoids for fibromyalgia and pain (see 0:58):
I also started following a few people who have fibromyalgia resources online, and joined a fibromyalgia support group in Facebook. I did this to understand what it was really like to have fibromyalgia, to see what I could offer, what people were saying about medical marijuana, and what scientific information might help the most.
2:19 Profound thing #1 – How incredibly under-serviced pain is when it comes to modern medicine.
4:05 Profound thing #2 – How much trust is needed from your healthcare professionals to get a diagnosis or treatment.
6:34 Story of how this all “came together” for me
My approach to the research
The approach I took in researching what science knows so far about marijuana’s uses for chronic pain was hopeful, enthusiastic, and scientific.
I had “heard” many promising uses for marijuana. I knew that strictly regulated use of medical marijuana was available in Canada, and parts of the USA, and Europe. I knew there were a couple of cannabis-based medications approved for use by Health Canada, the FDA and/or the EU. And I certainly knew of the campaigns to have marijuana legalized.
I had also heard that it was a safe and effective plant, and wanted to really understand exactly how safe and how effective it was.
So, I put on my “scientist” hat and limited my social media exposure to a few key fibromyalgia and marijuana sites, trying to avoid getting overwhelmed by the vast amount information available online. Then, I dug into the medical literature at the university medical school library where I live. I focused specifically on clinical studies of marijuana and cannabinoid use for pain that were published from 2010-2015.
What is in this special report?
While fibromyalgia has many symptoms, and can occur along with other conditions; and while medical marijuana is approved and being researched for many different uses, this report focuses specifically on the science behind use of medical marijuana and cannabinoids for chronic pain.
In a nutshell, the number of large high-quality clinical studies published to date is fairly limited. Despite cannabis’ long-time use, there really does not seem to be a scientific consensus on its safety or effectiveness.
As you probably know, large high-quality clinical trials are the types of studies needed to get a medication approved by Health Canada or the FDA.
In fact, just about every study I read calls for more research to be done.
Well executed clinical trials are very important when it comes to recommending treatments to large numbers of people. And while many animal or tissue studies can provide great insight, they are not enough to truly understand the safety and effectiveness of a treatment for use in people.
Case reports and people’s individual experiences can also provide some excellent information. However, they are also limited when it comes to truly understanding the overall safety and effectiveness of a treatment.
And most of the clinical studies of medical marijuana are observational, and aren’t the “gold standard” large randomized clinical trials I had hoped to find. Here is a fabulous chart outlining the strength of different types of scientific evidence.
That’s why I called this report: “Marijuana’s Potential for Chronic Pain – What does science know so far?”, because research into the pharmacology and medical uses of cannabinoids continues to this day.
Here is a very powerful quote:
“Our insight into these possibilities is dependent on the contribution of one unique healing plant; for clinical cannabis has become a therapeutic compass to what modern medicine fails to cure.”(Russo EB, 2004)
And I can now truly see how modern medicine fails to cure a lot of the physical pain that people experience every single day.
Summary of this report
There were several clinical studies and review articles published since 2010 on the use of medical marijuana and cannabinods for pain; however, they didn’t seem to have a consistent and clear message. I think this quote nicely sums it all up:
“There are more than 60 systematic reviews and meta-analyses discussing the safety, toxicology, potency, and therapeutic potential of exogenous cannabinoids. However, the general consensus of these reports is largely mixed and inconclusive. The uncertainty surrounding safety and efficacy of exogenous cannabinoids is not a product of the lack of research, but rather a product of the extreme variability in study methodology and quality.”(Sachs et al., 2015)
Thanks again for your interest in this special report. I hope that it provides you with a summary of what medical science has published in the last few years about marijuana and cannabinoid efficacy for pain treatment, as well as its safety.
And mostly, I truly hope that the amount of research into better treatment options and cures for all areas of pain explode in the near future. As I mentioned in my video above, I really see how under-served this area is and wish you much gratitude and gentle hugs.