If you’re someone who is suffering from chronic pelvic pain, there’s a decent chance you might have success in treating your symptoms with cannabis.

That’s the takeaway from a new study called Use of Cannabis for Self-Management of Chronic Pelvic Pain. The study, via researchers from the Mayo Clinic and published last month in the Journal of Women’s Health, found that 23 percent of patients who participated in the research reported using cannabis to soothe their symptoms. 

“The majority used [cannabis] at least once per week…Most users…reported improvement in symptoms, including pain, cramping, muscle spasms, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, libido, and irritability,” the authors of the study wrote. “Over one-third (35%) stated that cannabis use decreased the number of phone calls or messages sent to their provider, and 39% reported decreased number of clinical visits.”

The researchers said that nearly a quarter of the participating patients “report regular use of cannabis as an adjunct to their prescribed therapy,” and that despite most reporting side effects, most also said that cannabis improved their symptoms. 

“To our knowledge, this is the first study in the United States, which evaluated the prevalence of cannabis use among women with CPP. Our findings show that a clinically significant percentage of women use cannabis in addition to or as an alternative to traditional therapy for chronic pain,” the authors wrote, as quoted by NORML. “[U]sers indicated that cannabis improved CPP-related symptoms, decreased reliance on the health care system, and helped reduce use of opioid medications. Our findings provide important incremental evidence, and we hope to pave the way toward acceptance and consideration of cannabis as a therapeutic option for patients with debilitating pain to improve their quality of life.”

Pelvic Pain, Pot, And Opioids

Past studies have shown that about 15 percent of women in the United States have reported pelvic pain that lasts up to six months, though research is somewhat inconclusive. According to the National Institutes of Health, because it is “often linked to other disorders, such as endometriosis or vulvodynia, chronic pelvic pain may be misdiagnosed as another condition, making it difficult to estimate reliable prevalence rates for pelvic pain.” 

The study is not the first to show that patients who use cannabis to treat certain conditions end up reducing their opioid intake. A literature review published in the summer found “a much higher reduction in opioid dosage, reduced emergency room visits, and hospital admissions for chronic non-cancer pain by MC [medical cannabis] users, compared to people with no additional use of MC.”

“Given the current opioid epidemic in the USA and medical cannabis’s recognized analgesic properties, MC could serve as a viable option to achieve opioid dosage reduction in managing non-cancer chronic pain,” the authors of that study wrote.

Another study published in the spring found that “behavioral economic evidence that cannabis access may modestly reduce demand for opioids in persons who have pain.”

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, opioid overdoses “accounted for more than 42,000 deaths in 2016, more than any previous year on record,” with an “estimated 40% of opioid overdose deaths involving a prescription opioid.”