A study by a team of researchers in France has found that 17% of patients with rheumatologic diseases consume cannabis. A report on the study, “Cannabis use assessment and its impact on pain in rheumatologic diseases: A systematic review and meta-analysis,” was posted online this month prior to its publication in the journal Rheumatology.

To conduct the study, researchers in Clermont-Ferrand, France, performed a systematic review of scientific literature published through June 2020 on the use of cannabis to treat rheumatologic diseases. Rheumatologic diseases include conditions such as fibromyalgia (FM), lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.

The studies reviewed covered a total of 10,873 patients, including 2,900 who said that they consumed cannabis. The incidence of cannabis use was then calculated by meta-proportion.

“Nearly 20% of patients suffering from rheumatologic diseases actively consume cannabis, with an improvement in pain,” the authors of the study concluded. 

Patients Often Self-Medicate With Cannabis

The researchers noted in their rationale for the study that despite the use of classic analgesics and other medications including disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs to treat rheumatologic conditions, many patients continue to experience pain and often turn to non-prescribed pharmacological alternatives such as cannabis for self-therapeutic use. However, the medicinal use of cannabis has not yet been thoroughly investigated.

“The issue of cannabis use in the management of these patients should be addressed during medical consultation, essentially with cannabis-based standardized pharmaceutical products,” the investigators added in their conclusion.

The team of investigators reported that a significant portion of the patients in the reviewed research used cannabis and that its use helped relieve their pain. They also noted that the data suggests that cannabis has the potential to be an effective clinical therapeutic.

“In this meta-analysis, we found that one in six patients suffering from rheumatologic disease actively consumes cannabis, resulting in pain reduction,” the researchers wrote. 

“A favorable effect of cannabis on pain in our meta-analysis reinforces the idea that cannabis could be used for analgesic purposes,” they added.

Cannabis Also Effective For Fibromyalgia

The meta-analysis included significant research on the use of cannabis to treat fibromyalgia, and less data on other rheumatological conditions such as lupus, spondylitis, or rheumatoid arthritis. In a separate study also published this month, researchers in Brazil determined that cannabis oil was an effective treatment for a group of patients with fibromyalgia (FM), a chronic pain syndrome characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain and fatigue. 

Although the sample size for the study was small, researchers were encouraged by the results and recommended further trials to investigate the potential of cannabis to treat the condition.

“Considering the far-reaching damage caused by FM and the effect it can have on individuals, their families, communities, and the public health system, it seems necessary to study alternative, low-cost, and well-tolerated therapies that help patients to regain their well-being and quality of life,” the authors of the study wrote. “The present study aims to evaluate the impact that cannabis oil—a THC-rich whole plant extract—can have on symptoms and quality of life of individuals afflicted by FM.”

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