(HealthDay News) – More than 10% of patients with a diagnosis of fibromyalgia report using marijuana to relieve pain, and those who do so are more likely to be in poorer mental health, seek drugs, and be unemployed, according to a study published online June 21 in Arthritis Care & Research.

Peter A Ste-Marie, from the McGill University Health Center in Montreal, and colleagues examined demographic and psychosocial factors associated with self-reported use of cannabinoids in 457 patients with a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. The diagnosis was validated and associations with cannabinoid use in these patients were examined.

The researchers found that 13% of patients reported using cannabinoids. Of these patients, 80% used herbal cannabis (marijuana), 24% used prescription cannabinoids, and 3% used both. Marijuana use was significantly more common in males, those with current unstable mental illness, and those with opioid drug-seeking behavior. Marijuana users were also more likely to be unemployed and receiving disability payments. Fibromyalgia diagnosis was validated in 302 patients, and in a separate analysis of this group the significance of the associations was lost but the trends persisted.

“While self-medicating with cannabinoids may provide some pain relief to fibromyalgia patients, we caution against general use of illicit drugs until health and psychosocial issues risks are confirmed,” a coauthor said in a statement. “Physicians should be alert to potential negative mental health issues in fibromyalgia patients using illicit drugs for medical purposes. Some herbal cannabis users may be dishonestly using a fibromyalgia diagnosis to justify self-medicating with illegal drugs.”

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