Marijuana may help alleviate some symptoms of fibromyalgia, a condition characterized by chronic pain, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and memory problems.

However, there’s still a lot we don’t know about the safety and effectiveness of marijuana in treating symptoms of fibromyalgia.

Read on to learn what the research says. We’ll also explore other lifestyle changes and therapies you can try to help ease pain and other symptoms of fibromyalgia.

Marijuana comes from plants in the Cannabis genus. It contains two main active ingredients (or compounds): tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

  • THC is the psychoactive compound that gives the high sensation. It can be smoked and is available in other forms, such as edibles, oils, and capsules.
  • CBD is a nonpsychoactive compound, meaning it doesn’t produce the “high” associated with THC. It’s sold in gels, gummies, oils, supplements, extracts, and more.

You can find marijuana products that contain just CBD or THC, or a combination of both.

Many people with fibromyalgia use marijuana products to treat their symptoms. The Handbook of Cannabis and Related Pathologies, published in 2017, indicates that marijuana and related products may be effective in treating some symptoms of fibromyalgia.

However, researchers agree that more studies are needed to understand the role of marijuana and its active components in treating fibromyalgia.

In particular, few studies have examined the effectiveness of THC versus CBD for symptoms of fibromyalgia.

Here’s a summary of the research for common fibromyalgia symptoms:

Medical marijuana for fibromyalgia pain

In 2017, the National Academies Press (NAP) published a comprehensive review of the health effects of cannabis, including therapeutic effects. According to the review, substantial evidence suggests cannabis is effective in treating chronic pain in adults.

Few studies have focused exclusively on pain associated with fibromyalgia.

In a 2011 study, 28 participants who used cannabis for fibromyalgia ranked its perceived benefits for each symptom. Among them, approximately 43 percent reported strong pain relief and 43 percent reported mild pain relief. The remaining 7 percent reported no difference in their pain symptoms.

In contrast, a 2018 study of 25 people with fibromyalgia compared the pain-relieving effects of four types of marijuana, each of which had different THC and CBD contents. One of the four types of marijuana was a placebo which contained neither THC nor CBD.

After the placebo treatment, 44 percent of participants reported a 30 percent reduction in pain, while 24 percent reported a 50 percent reduction in pain. The study’s main findings indicate that compared to the placebo, marijuana didn’t have a significant effect on participant pain rankings.

More research is required to understand whether medical marijuana really is an effective treatment for pain associated with fibromyalgia.

Medical marijuana for fibromyalgia sleep problems

The 2018 review from NAP referenced in the previous section concluded that there’s a moderate amount of evidence that cannabis-related products can help improve sleep in people with fibromyalgia in the short term.

In the 2011 study cited in the previous section, 81 percent of participants who used marijuana to treat fibromyalgia reported that it provided strong relief from sleep issues.

Finally, a 2010 study investigated the effects of nabilone, a synthetic drug with effects similar to those of marijuana. The researchers found that nabilone helped improve sleep among people with fibromyalgia.

Medical marijuana for other fibromyalgia symptoms

Research examining the effectiveness of marijuana in treating other symptoms associated with fibromyalgia is limited.

According to the Handbook of Cannabis and Related Pathologies, most of the evidence assessing marijuana’s effectiveness in treating muscle stiffness, mood problems, anxiety, and headaches associated with fibromyalgia comes from surveys and observational studies.

More clinical studies are needed to come to any conclusions.

Based on the research above, medical marijuana might be able to help manage pain and sleep disturbances associated with fibromyalgia.

If you’re thinking about using medical marijuana to treat fibromyalgia, speak to your doctor. Marijuana can interfere with medication you might already be taking.

Your doctor can help you weigh the risks and potential benefits of using marijuana for fibromyalgia. They can also tell you whether it’s legally available in your area.

Don’t use marijuana if you’re pregnant or nursing. THC can pass through the placenta and breast milk to your baby, and it poses risks to developing fetuses and babies.

Avoid smoking around children, pregnant women, and pets.

Marijuana can cause unpleasant short-term side effects. These may include:

  • changes in perception
  • changes in mood
  • confusion
  • impaired movement
  • impaired concentration
  • impaired memory

High doses of marijuana can trigger hallucinations, delusions, and psychosis.

Research into the long-term risks associated with daily or near-daily marijuana use is still in progress. Some potential risks of long-term marijuana use include:

  • addiction
  • mental illnesses
  • cognitive impairments
  • respiratory problems
  • circulatory problems

Marijuana laws vary by state and country and are evolving. Whether it’s legal depends on where you live. Across the United States, the different legal scenarios are as follows:

  • Marijuana is legal.
  • Marijuana is legal for medicinal purposes.
  • CBD or low-THC marijuana is legal, sometimes with restrictions.
  • Marijuana is illegal.
  • Marijuana is illegal, but decriminalized.

Many state-based medical marijuana and CBD programs specify which health conditions qualify for therapeutic use.

For instance, in some states, CBD is only legal when used to treat epilepsy. In other states, CBD or low-THC marijuana products are permitted with a doctor’s prescription.

If medical marijuana is legal in your state or country, you’ll need to find out what your local requirements are.

In the United States, requirements vary significantly from one state to another.

Specifically, you’ll need to find out if having fibromyalgia qualifies you for medical marijuana. This information should be available on your state’s health services website. If it isn’t, call and ask.

If you do qualify for medical marijuana, you might have to apply for a medical marijuana card.

To apply, you’ll be asked to provide documentation of your condition in the form of medical or other records. You’ll also need a prescription from a doctor. In addition, you might need to submit proof of your identity, such as a passport or driver’s license.

Depending on where you live, it might not be possible to obtain marijuana legally. If marijuana isn’t legal in your state, you shouldn’t try to obtain it illegally.

Additional nonmedical treatments are available for fibromyalgia. Here are some lifestyle changes and alternative therapies that you can try:

Talk to your doctor to find out which lifestyle changes and alternative therapies might work for you.

Medical marijuana may help alleviate symptoms of fibromyalgia in some people. However, the safety and effectiveness of marijuana in treating symptoms remain unclear.

If you’re thinking about using marijuana to treat your fibromyalgia symptoms, you should find out more about the laws in your area.

If marijuana isn’t legal where you live, don’t try to obtain it illegally.

Always consult a doctor before using marijuana to treat fibromyalgia symptoms.