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Medical Marijuana and Endometriosis

What Is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a disorder that occurs solely in women. It happens when the uterine lining, which produces bleeding during menstruation, begins to grow around other internal body parts. The main symptom women with endometriosis have to contend with is pain. The excess and invasive uterine tissue can cause a number of problems that lead to pain but it is also painful in and of itself. It can severely and irredeemably damage organs in the abdomen. It can also cause heavy bleeding and fertility issues.   As endometriosis progresses, it gets more and more painful. The invasive tissue is not sloughed off naturally by the body during menstruation as the lining within the uterus is. Nevertheless, it continues to build up on a monthly cycle as it would inside of the uterus. This causes rampant growth of the tissue in the areas that it has invaded.   Women may not notice endometriosis pain at first because it tends to follow the cycle of menstruation. It can cause periods that are more painful than normal. Pain in the abdomen as menstruation approaches often occurs, as does pain after intercourse. If the invasive tissue has spread to the bowel, it can cause painful bowel movements as well. Pain around the time of menstruation is common in women, so pain related to endometriosis may be passed off as menstrual pain for some time before the pain gets severe enough that a woman seeks treatment. Even then, it can go unnoticed by a doctor who does not suspect endometriosis and does not search for it.   Treatment for endometriosis varies depending on the extent of the damage done by the disease and the symptoms experienced by the sufferer. Anti-inflammatory and pain relievers may be used to curb the pain caused by endometriosis, but it will require long-term use as the disease does not go away on its own. Treatment against the condition itself includes hormones, birth control and surgery. If removing reproductive organs or use of hormones is not an option for the sufferer, pain management is the typical course of treatment.

Medical Marijuana and Endometriosis

Endometriosis, Pain Management and Medical Marijuana Research

Marijuana has long been considered a treatment for pain management. Its pain relieving ability is quite mild compared to other medications. However, medical marijuana appears to have properties that help individuals cope with pain. There is also some evidence to suggest that it is helpful to use with opiates in order to keep opiate dosage low. It also appears to help opiates reduce pain.

Medical marijuana is unlikely to work in treatment of endometriosis itself. There is not any evidence to suggest that medical marijuana can decrease the production of uterine lining to any significant extent. Therefore, the only use medical marijuana can have in the treatment of endometriosis is in pain management. Numerous studies show that medical marijuana does have some pain relieving properties that appear to vary by individual. Some people can experience great relief from pain on medical marijuana and others experience very little or none. Like all medications, people react in different ways. 

Endometriosis and Medical Marijuana Studies 

A study conducted at UCSF showed that cannabinoids combined with opiates resulted in greater reduction of pain with a lower dosage of opiates than if the cannabinoid had not been used. Chronic pain sufferers in this study reported up to 33 percent reduction in pain despite being given a lower dose of their opiate pain relievers. Dr. Donald Abrams states that their next step is to do another study that includes different medical marijuana types and potentially placebos so the results of this study can be confirmed. 

The pain produced by endometriosis can only be described as chronic if the underlying condition is not treated. Therefore, long-term treatment is necessary. Over time, women who are taking prescription medications can become addicted to or experience less relief from these pain relievers. While tolerance to medical marijuana may increase over time, it has been shown that the risks of medical marijuana are far fewer than those of opiates. There is no known risk of death from marijuana overdose or overuse and that is not for lack of research. People have been using marijuana for thousands of years and there is not one single documented case of a medical emergency resulting from an overdose.

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