Women Are Turning to Cannabis to Ease the Pain of Endometriosis
Sun, April 18, 2021

Women Are Turning to Cannabis to Ease the Pain of Endometriosis

Even with medication and surgery, women suffering from endometriosis still have difficulty managing the pain and other symptoms associated with it / Photo by: BlurryMe via Shutterstock

 

Even with medication and surgery, women suffering from endometriosis still have difficulty managing the pain and other symptoms associated with it. This leads them to look for alternatives that can get the symptoms of the disease under control—cannabis is one of them.

In Australia, researchers found that 1 in 10 women with endometriosis use cannabis to ease their pain. The plant-based medicine was even rated the most effective way to self-manage the condition. Researchers detailed their findings in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada.

 

Examining Self-Management Techniques

Endometriosis is a condition in which tissue similar to the lining of the uterus is located outside of the said organ. Women who have this condition usually experience pain and fatigue and many report significant negative impacts on their education, work, friendships, and sexual relationships.

The study surveyed 484 Australian women with endometriosis aged 18 to 45 to determine the methods they use to self-manage symptoms. They found that 76% of the women had used self-management techniques in the six months prior to the study.

Among these methods were heated packs (70%), changes in their diets (44%), exercise (42%), yoga or pilates (35%), and cannabis (13%). While only a small percentage used cannabis to control their pain, it was rated as the most effective technique.

Endometriosis is a condition in which tissue similar to the lining of the uterus is located outside of the said organ / Photo by: Africa Studio via Shutterstock

 

Along with reducing pain, the women said using cannabis also significantly reduced symptoms of nausea and vomiting, gastrointestinal symptoms, problems with their sleep, feelings of depression and anxiety, according to a statement.

Women who used the drug also reported cutting down on the medication they usually took for endometriosis symptoms. Over half of them said they lowered their medication by 50% or more, with reported side effects being mild and relatively rare.

"Cannabis has a long history of use in the ancient and scientific literature for various conditions such as period pain, however until now nothing has been investigated for cannabis being used for endometriosis," said Justin Sinclair, lead author from the NICM Health Research Institute.

"Past research has demonstrated that certain compounds within cannabis known as cannabinoids exert analgesic and anti-inflammatory activity. Our research sought to determine the prevalence, tolerability, and self-reported effectiveness of cannabis in women with endometriosis."

Why Women Prefer Cannabis and Self-Care

Endometriosis is commonly treated with medication and surgery, with the latter reducing pain in the short to medium term. Hormonal treatment options have recently been found to manage pain as well, although they are often discontinued or avoided because of notable side effects like headaches, mood swings, and depression.

Pharmaceutical treatments like non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, on the other hand, appeared to be ineffective in easing the pain from endometriosis. Women are often prescribed opioids to manage the condition, but this puts them at risk of being dependent on the drug and potential overdose.

These side effects and inadequate relief are what pushing women to find alternative care in cannabis to manage the burdensome symptoms of endometriosis, which affect their daily lives and cause poor mental and emotional health, The Conversation says. The Conversation is an Australia-based not-for-profit media outlet that uses content sourced from academics and researchers.

Recent studies have proven that medical cannabis can alleviate a number of conditions such as chronic pain in adults, spasticity of multiple sclerosis, uncontrollable seizures, as well as nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy.

The Conversation says that even though research in the effects of cannabis on pelvic pain in women is still in its infancy, a study found women suffering from the condition may ease the pain of their pelvic area if they use medical cannabis. Using the alternative may also reduce their intake of opioid painkillers.

It adds that medical cannabis has been approved to be prescribed for pain associated with endometriosis in Australia through regulated pathways. Australian law needs these ways to ensure that legal medicinal cannabis use follows them and that prescriptions are limited to the needed dose.

Risks of Cannabis

While the study showed promising results in treating symptoms of endometriosis, the researchers cautioned that the alternative still has risks. Sinclair concluded that only 1 in 10 women in the study who self-manage their pain with cannabis reported experiencing negative effects such as drowsiness, rapid heartbeat, or increased anxiety.

Moreover, illicit use of the drug is also relatively common among Australian women with endometriosis.

"Due to the timing of when the survey was administered, most if not all of the women in the survey would have been using illicit cannabis as access to medicinal cannabis was still in its infancy," said Mike Amour, the chief investigator of the study from NICM Health Research Institute.

"This means we don't have any information about the different varieties of cannabis that women were using, or what might have been in the cannabis that was being used as it was derived from illicit sources which are not quality assured."

Amour added that their study was a self-reported survey, meaning there may have been over or underestimations of the positive and negative effects of cannabis for treating endometriosis symptoms. He acknowledged the need for additional research to determine the "effectiveness of quality-controlled medicinal cannabis and women with endometriosis."

Sinclair concluded that only 1 in 10 women in the study who self-manage their pain with cannabis reported experiencing negative effects such as drowsiness, rapid heartbeat, or increased anxiety / Photo by: ElRoi via Shutterstock