Updated on January 25, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), causes more than just severe fatigue. Other various side effects make living with the condition difficult for patients. Unrelenting physical and mental tiredness is often accompanied by post-workout malaise, difficultye sleeping and pain that’s either localized or widespread.
Doctors aren’t sure exactly what causes CFS, though they believe it’s a combination of factors. They often prescribe lifestyle changes combined with prescription medications, but the effectiveness of these varies.
Although there are currently no case studies specifically about medical marijuana’s impact on patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, evidence suggests it could be a possible treatment option. In fact, there are many anecdotal accounts of patients using cannabis to relieve their CFS symptoms in states where the plant is approved for medicinal use.
Here, we will explore case studies that suggest how medical marijuana could target the condition’s symptoms and help patients live better quality lives.
There is no clear cause for chronic fatigue syndrome. Doctors postulate a combination of factors, from environmental to genetic, cause the condition. In addition, CFS is treatment-resistant, meaning there is no clear cure and medications that work for one patient don’t always work for others.
In 2004, a groundbreaking study examined other conditions with similar mysterious origins. Experts aren’t exactly sure what causes disorders like fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and migraines. And many patients are resistant to common treatment options. Ethan B. Russo, the Senior Medical Advisor at GW Pharmaceuticals, proposed in this study that the root cause could be an endocannabinoid deficiency.
Although the study didn’t deal specifically with CFS, he concluded that conditions with similar biochemical and pathophysiological patterns could be treated with cannabinoid medications, like those derived from medical marijuana. Further research is required to determine how cannabinoid therapy can target individual symptoms and conditions.
There have been many case studies to verify how cannabis can improve sleep, sensations of pain and mood. However, this 2010 study conducted by the Department of Anesthesia at McGill University in Montreal focused on all three symptoms. The researchers read anecdotal accounts about the effects of cannabis on these symptoms, and they sought to verify the results by using a controlled study.
A total of 23 participants all suffering from neuropathic pain were given a 25-milligram dose of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) three times daily for five consecutive days. The results were the reduction of pain in most patients and improved sleep and mood.
Although this study doesn’t specifically focus on chronic fatigue syndrome, it is one of many case studies that proves the validity of using cannabis as a sleep aid and pain reliever. Because CFS patients struggle with painful symptoms and even mood disorders, this study demonstrates that further research into cannabis’ effects on CFS patients is warranted.
Although we often focus on how CFS affects adults, the condition is known to appear in children and adolescents as well. This 2017 study was geared toward managing myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms in young people. The research team was composed of experts from around the world, and they published their results in Frontiers in Pediatrics.
They touched on many different treatment options. Although their focus wasn’t specifically about medical marijuana, they acknowledged that young CFS patients struggling with chronic pain seemed to improve through the use of cannabis or other synthetic cannabinoids.
They also stated that no medical trials had been done to determine how medical marijuana could be used in the treatment of CFS.
With anecdotal reports piling up sharing how cannabis is an effective treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome, it’s time for researchers to conduct clinical studies focused on how medical marijuana could treat this condition. If you would like more information about using cannabis to treat CFS, contact a marijuana doctor in your state to find out if you qualify for medical marijuana treatments.