Can Medical Marijuana Help Alleviate Endo-Associated Pain?

In the past few years, the public image of marijuana has evolved quite a bit from its association as a dangerous, mind-altering drug, to one that may have a variety of medical applications that can treat the symptoms associated with a range of diseases, as well as decrease dependency on and overdoses due to opioids.1

My experience

As someone who suffers chronic pain that has sometimes debilitated me for days or weeks at a time, I was curious to try medical marijuana, also known as MMJ. I had sporadically tried smoking it over the past few years, and did notice a difference afterwards, sometimes a dramatic one and other times, less so. In fact, one of the first times I ever tried marijuana (by smoking it), I was on my period and I noticed an almost-immediate reprieve from the agonizing menstrual cramps. This reprieve lasted most of the rest of the night. Fast forward to this year, and I finally decided to take the plunge and began using medical grade marijuana as an edible on a regular basis. I started by taking a small chewable candy that contained a very small dose of MMJ-- only 2 mg. I took it every evening about an hour or so after dinner, but a few hours before bed. I noticed right away within those first few nights that I was sleeping much better than I had been. I didn’t experience any “high feeling” or euphoria, just an overall calming effect and general sense of sleepiness.

It took a few weeks to really notice the full effects of the MMJ, because they occurred gradually and were more subtle than I had been expecting. However, within the first month of my routine, the difference in my overall pain levels became very clear, so much so I don’t know if I could ever go back to what it was before taking it. In particular, realized that I had barely taken any NSAIDs or muscle relaxants in the past month, because I rarely needed them now. I can now sit-up straight at my desk longer than I had been able to, and go for longer walks. And science backs up some of my experiences. Though MMJ has not been studied much on the federal level due to its classification as a dangerous drug, at least some research published in 2009 indicated that marijuana has the potential to act as a powerful anti-inflammatory.2

What the research says

Regarding its role in treating endo, another 2010 study noted that the “echocannabinoid system”-- that is, a biological system found in mammals that includes neurotransmitters that bind to cannabinoid receptors and is known to be involved in uterine function-- may also be involved “in both endometriosis and its associated pain”. More specifically, the study found that “CB1 receptor agonists decrease, whereas CB1 receptor antagonists increase, endometriosis-associated hyperalgesia”. In other words, introducing a drug or treatment that will successfully bind to CB1 receptors--such as those found in MMJ or CBD--seemingly help to decrease endo-related pain and cramping.3

As for me, though my periods are still fairly painful despite taking MMJ on a near-daily basis, I notice the other pains I encounter throughout the rest of my cycle that endo no doubt contributes to or was the primary player in--such as the incessant aching in my hips and lower back, frequent abdominal pain, a weakness that crawls down my legs--has all significantly improved. And even while my periods are still not a walk in the park, I have noticed that each month they seem slightly better and less heavy than the last since I started my regular MMJ routine.

Access to MMJ and CBD

Unfortunately, accessing to medical marijuana can still be very difficult or impossible depending on where one lives in the United States. Currently, “medical marijuana” is legal in 30 states and the District of Columbia. Yet, even then, one often must get some kind of permit or license to purchase or grow it based on a doctor’s recommendation. In some states, the expense of attaining this permit or license is cost-prohibitive. For my home state of Massachusetts, most medical insurances will not cover a doctor’s visit for an assessment for a permit and only a small, select amount of doctors have been approved to conduct such assessments. As such, these assessments often must be paid for out-of-pocket and average $200.

Fortunately, recreational marijuana is also legal in Massachusetts, so one can use marijuana without having a license (though the state has been dragging its feet on allowing recreational dispensaries; they were supposed to open in July 2018, but that has been largely delayed), though the marijuana they access recreationally may not have been screened or formulated specifically for medical value. For those who do not live in a state where either medical or recreational marijuana is available, CBD (Cannabidiol) oil and topical treatments are available online and in many health food stores now and are legal in most states.

Many people assert the most effective part of MMJ for treating pain and spasm is actually CBD, which does not have the psychoactive property of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) anyway (which is why it is legal). As such, many people may find relief with CBD oil or topical treatments alone (please note it may be best to get an organic, high quality brand, because pesticide exposure can exacerbate endo). I personally felt much more relief with MMJ than CBD alone, though admittedly my use of CBD was much more short-lived than my MMJ use, so I may not have given it enough time to reap the long-term impacts.

Have you had any success treating your endo with MMJ or CBD products? Let me know in the comments below.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Endometriosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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