Can Medical Marijuana Help Relieve Symptoms of Fibromyalgia?

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Fibromyalgia, a pain management specialist at Evergreen Hospital in Kirkland, Wash. “You’ll certainly find doctors who’ll be very supportive and write prescriptions for medical marijuana. But it’s how the individual physician reads the data and the evidence. There’s no doubt it makes you feel good, but so does alcohol.”

Chabal continues, “Another problem I have with marijuana is that it’s herbal, untested, and you never know what you’re getting when you buy it.”

Chabal doesn’t bring up medical marijuana with his patients. “Some patients have asked me about it. They want me to write a prescription for medical marijuana. But that’s not something I do. I don’t want to be known as ‘the medical marijuana doctor.’ Already, doing pain management, one of the big things I need to sort out are the patients who are using pain medications appropriately versus those who are abusing them. We have a lot of social responsibility with that.

“I’m not aware of any evidence that medical marijuana is one of the tools we’d use to improve physical and social function, including interaction with loved ones and family — all key determinants of quality of life,” says Chabal.

The “poor delivery” argument

Robert L. DuPont, MD, is clinical professor of fibromyalgia, I’m all for it — meaning prescribing purified chemicals in a known dose. No doctors prescribe burning leaves to treat any illness.”

An estimated 400 chemicals co-exist in marijuana, but marijuana smoke has as many as 2,000 chemicals, says DuPont. “Would you really want to prescribe 2,000 chemicals in a mix where you don’t know what it is and call that a medicine?”

DuPont says it’s important to test the chemicals in marijuana that might treat heart. Getting funding, federal approvals, and results published — not to mention the drug itself, which only is available from the National Institute on Drug Abuse — are all uphill battles.

When he conducts a study, Abrams takes extra steps to ensure safety since marijuana is a controlled substance. He hospitalizes his patients, without visitors, for the duration of the research study. Even so, he says, “It’s still not easy to enroll patients in medical marijuana studies. And that makes it difficult to accumulate data.”