.

  • Written by Justin Sinclair, Research Fellow, NICM Health Research Institute, Western Sydney University
Endometriosis is a chronic condition that causes pain, infertility and gastrointestinal symptoms. Joshua Resnick/Shutterstock

Endometriosis is a chronic, inflammatory condition where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus is found outside of the womb. It affects around one in ten women of reproductive age, causing pain, infertility and gastrointestinal symptoms.

Women often report difficulty getting their pain and other symptoms under control, despite medication or even surgery.

Our research, published today, found one in ten Australian women with endometriosis reported using cannabis to manage their pain and other symptoms.


Read more: I have painful periods, could it be endometriosis?


What did our study find?

We surveyed 484 women with surgically diagnosed endometriosis about the self-management strategies they used.

Of the respondents, who were aged 18 to 45, 76% reported using self-management techniques in the past six months. This included the use of heat packs (70%), dietary changes (44%), exercise (42%), yoga or pilates (35%) and cannabis (13%).

Out of all of the self-management techniques, cannabis was rated as the most effective for managing pain.

Women who reported higher levels of pain were more likely to use cannabis than those with milder symptoms. This may be because they couldn’t get relief through other measures.

Respondents who used cannabis also reported improvements in other symptoms including gastrointestinal problems, nausea, anxiety, depression and sleep.

One in ten cannabis users reported side effects, which included anxiety, drowsiness and tachycardia (fast heart rate). This is consistent with other research.

How could cannabis help treat endometriosis symptoms?

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex regulatory system comprised of various receptors, chemicals that bind with these receptors, and enzymes. It helps maintain balance (homeostasis) in our bodies and is important for a wide range of actions, including metabolism, inflammation and immune function.

The ECS is distributed throughout most organs in the human body, but is more abundant in the central nervous, immune and female reproductive systems.

Chemicals from cannabis, including the cannabinoids tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), can interact with the ECS and other receptor types. This suggests a mechanism for how cannabis may alleviate pelvic pain in women with endometriosis.


Read more: Marijuana is a lot more than just THC - a pharmacologist looks at the untapped healing compounds


Emerging research shows medicinal cannabis can help manage a number of conditions, including chronic pain in adults, the spasticity of multiple sclerosis, intractable epilepsy (where seizures can’t be controlled with medication) and chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.

Research is still in its infancy in women with pelvic pain, but one study found women with pelvic pain may benefit from using medicinal cannabis. It may also allow them to reduce their opioid pain-killer intake.

Medicinal cannabis may help women cut down on their use of opioids. Tinnakorn jorruang/Shutterstock

Is it legal?

Medical practitioners in Australia can legally prescribe medicinal cannabis through regulated pathways such as the Special Access Scheme Category B and the Authorised Prescriber Scheme. These pathways are typically used by doctors for unapproved medicines.

According to discussions with prescribing doctors and patients, approvals for medicinal cannabis for pain associated with endometriosis have been successful through these regulated, legal channels.

However, at the time our survey was administered, in late 2017, it’s likely most women who were using cannabis accessed it illicitly. No Special Access Scheme approvals had been granted for endometriosis at the time. Further, most women we surveyed reported smoking cannabis, which is very rarely prescribed by doctors in Australia.

Despite the perception that “natural” equals safe, cannabis use does come with risks. These should be discussed with and monitored by medical professionals.

Why do women resort to cannabis and self care?

Both surgical and pharmaceutical treatments are commonly used for endometriosis.

Surgery can reduce pain, at least in the short to medium term.

Recent reviews have found hormonal treatment options can be effective at managing pain but these are often discontinued or avoided due to significant side effects, such as headaches, mood swings and depression.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen don’t seem to be effective at alleviating pain from endometriosis.


Read more: Endometriosis costs women and society $30,000 a year for every sufferer


In the US, opioids (oxycodone and codeine) are commonly prescribed for endometriosis. Rates of opioid prescription are much lower in Australia but it’s still relatively common among women. This puts women at risk of dependence and potential overdose.

Women with endometriosis report wide-ranging negative impacts on their daily lives, from having to reduce their social activities to problems going to work or studying. It can also cause poor mental and emotional health and affect their sexual and romantic relationships.

So what needs to happen next?

Our survey data shows Australian women are already using cannabis for endometriosis-associated pain, regardless of legality, and with few reported side effects.

However, these survey responses are self-reported so there may be issues such as recall bias. This can lead to over or underestimation of either benefits or harms.

Given women with endometriosis are often suffering without adequate pain control, well designed clinical trials are urgently needed to determine how effective and safe quality-controlled medicinal cannabis might be in treating the symptoms of endometriosis.


Read more: CBD: Rising star or popular fad?


Justin Sinclair sits on the scientific advisory board of United in Compassion (medicinal cannabis patient advocacy) pro bono. He receives funding from BioCeuticals to conduct his PhD research. The material in this article and the original research survey was not from any externally funded research.

Mike Armour is a clinical advisory board member for Endometriosis Australia and recieves funding from Spectrum Cannabis to explore views for using medicial cannabis in primary dysmenorrhea. The material in this article and the original research survey was not from any externally funded research.

Authors: Justin Sinclair, Research Fellow, NICM Health Research Institute, Western Sydney University

Read more http://theconversation.com/1-in-10-women-with-endometriosis-report-using-cannabis-to-ease-their-pain-126516

Boosting Your Child’s Learning through Play

Being a parent is probably the highest responsibility one has in a lifetime. Once it happens, it becomes ongoing and keeps posing new challenges to us. Of course, it may seem easy from some perspe...

Diana Smith - avatar Diana Smith

Different ideas of Christmas Gifts to give to your beloved ones

"CHRISTMAS GIFTS – one of the best festival gifts to give to your closed ones. Find Christmas presents for everybody on your checklist. Christmas is now here, and if that you haven't got a hop on ...

News Company - avatar News Company

The Ultimate Guide to Sneakers and Sneaker Brands

When it comes to finding the perfect pair of sneakers, it can be hard to know where to start. Finding the right pair for any kind of occasion can be difficult, so brushing up on your knowledge of sn...

News Company - avatar News Company

View from The Hill: Morrison won't have a bar of public service intrusions on government's power

Scott Morrison has rejected or sidelined a number of recommendations from the long-awaited Thodey review. AAP/Paul BravenScott Morrison has rejected or sidelined a number of recommendations from the l...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

VIDEO: Michelle Grattan reflects on the year in politics

For their last video for the year, University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor Deep Saini and Michelle Grattan look backwards to the big issues which have shaped political discourse. They discuss the surpr...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Choosing a Heavy Weighted Bathmats

Decorating your bathroom doesn’t finish with the paint choice or tile colours. You can change the whole room with the change of your towel set. There are no rules that say that you need to have a ...

News Company - avatar News Company

God as man, man as God: no wonder many Christian men today are having a masculinity crisis

How men saw God shaped how they saw themselves, and in turn, how they saw women. WikimediaThis article is part of our Gender and Christianity series. To understand contemporary Christian ideas about...

William Loader, Emeritus Professor of New Testament at Murdoch University, Murdoch University - avatar William Loader, Emeritus Professor of New Testament at Murdoch University, Murdoch University

Australia needs a national crisis plan, and not just for bushfires

Bushfires aren't the only catastrophic emergency Australia is likely to see. AAP Image/Mick TsikasCalls are growing for a national bushfire plan, including from former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull...

Andrew Gissing, General Manager, Risk Frontiers, Adjunct Fellow, Macquarie University - avatar Andrew Gissing, General Manager, Risk Frontiers, Adjunct Fellow, Macquarie University

Your Christmas shopping could harm or help the planet. Which will it be?

Many Australian consumers are concerned at the environmental impact of their shopping habits, especially at Christmas. AAPAustralian shoppers are set to spend $52.7 billion this Christmas. In the word...

Louise Grimmer, Senior Lecturer in Marketing, Tasmanian School of Business and Economics, University of Tasmania - avatar Louise Grimmer, Senior Lecturer in Marketing, Tasmanian School of Business and Economics, University of Tasmania

Right-swipes and red flags – how young people negotiate sex and safety on dating apps

For many young people, app dating is just part of regular dating life. freestocks.org/UnsplashPopular commentary on dating apps often associates their use with “risky” sex, harassment and ...

Kath Albury, Professor of Media and Communication, Faculty of Health, Arts and Design, Swinburne University of Technology - avatar Kath Albury, Professor of Media and Communication, Faculty of Health, Arts and Design, Swinburne University of Technology

Bougainville has voted to become a new country, but the journey to independence is not yet over

The Autonomous Region of Bougainville, a chain of islands that lie 959 kilometres northwest of Papua New Guinea’s capital, Port Moresby, has voted unequivocally for independence. The referendum...

Anna Powles, Senior Lecturer in Security Studies, Massey University - avatar Anna Powles, Senior Lecturer in Security Studies, Massey University

Comfortable Footwear That'll Get You Through From Day To Night In Style

When you are choosing your footwear, you need to make sure that you are choosing something that is going to be comfortable. This is especially important if you are going to be wearing your shoes a...

Rosana Beechum - avatar Rosana Beechum

How to Have a Peaceful Retirement

Retirement is the time to treat yourself after a lifetime of working, to complete your bucket list and to spend time with the people that you care for. However, having a peaceful retirement can be d...

News Company - avatar News Company

Friday essay: eco-disaster films in the 21st century - helpful or harmful?

A scene from the 2017 film Geostorm: many societies have historically attempted to deal with collective trauma by replaying and restaging it in art. Warner Bros., Electric Entertainment, Rat Pac-Dune ...

Ari Mattes, Lecturer in Communications and Media, University of Notre Dame Australia - avatar Ari Mattes, Lecturer in Communications and Media, University of Notre Dame Australia

A new study shows an animal's lifespan is written in the DNA. For humans, it's 38 years

A genetic "clock" lets scientists estimate how long extinct creatures lived. Wooly mammoths could expect around 60 years. Australian MuseumHumans have a “natural” lifespan of around 38 yea...

Benjamin Mayne, Molecular biologist and bioinformatician, CSIRO - avatar Benjamin Mayne, Molecular biologist and bioinformatician, CSIRO

Vital Signs: Australia's wafer-thin surplus rests on a mine disaster in Brazil

On Monday the Australian government will release the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO). This will – as required by the Charter of Budget Honesty – provide an update on the key a...

Richard Holden, Professor of Economics, UNSW - avatar Richard Holden, Professor of Economics, UNSW

Don't believe the stereotype: these 5 charts show our democracy is safe in the hands of future voters

Almost 900 school kids, aged 12 to 17, were surveyed. ShutterstockA new, ongoing survey on how young Australians understand and imagine their democracy is already challenging long-held stereotypes. ...

Mark Evans, Professor of Governance and Director of Democracy 2025 - bridging the trust divide at Old Parliament House, University of Canberra - avatar Mark Evans, Professor of Governance and Director of Democracy 2025 - bridging the trust divide at Old Parliament House, University of Canberra

Private health insurance premiums should be based on age and health status

Policy changes have failed to stop young people dropping their private health insurance. ShutterstockPrivate health insurance has come under intense scrutiny in recent months, as it becomes clear heal...

Francesco Paolucci, Associate Professor; Head of Health Policy Program, Sir Walter Murdoch School of Public Policy and International Affairs, University of Newcastle - avatar Francesco Paolucci, Associate Professor; Head of Health Policy Program, Sir Walter Murdoch School of Public Policy and International Affairs, University of Newcastle

Knowledge is a process of discovery: how constructivism changed education

According to constructivists, we truly understand something when we filter it through our senses and interactions. from shutterstock.comThis is the second of two essays exploring key theories – ...

Luke Zaphir, Researcher for the University of Queensland Critical Thinking Project; and Online Teacher at Education Queensland's IMPACT Centre, The University of Queensland - avatar Luke Zaphir, Researcher for the University of Queensland Critical Thinking Project; and Online Teacher at Education Queensland's IMPACT Centre, The University of Queensland

Sick and Tired of Your Dead End Job? Try Teaching!

Tired of the same old grind at the office? Want an opportunity to impact lives both in your community and around the world? Do you love to travel and have new experiences? Teaching English is the perfect job for you! All you need is a willingness to ...

News Company - avatar News Company

The Impact of an Aging Population in Australia

There’s an issue on the horizon that Australia needs to prepare for. The portion of elderly citizens that make up the country’s overall population is increasing, and we might not have the infrastructure in place to support this. Australians h...

News Company - avatar News Company

LifeStyle

Boosting Your Child’s Learning through Play

Being a parent is probably the highest responsibility one has in a lifetime. Once it happens, it...

Different ideas of Christmas Gifts to give to your beloved ones

"CHRISTMAS GIFTS – one of the best festival gifts to give to your closed ones. Find Christmas pr...

How to Have a Peaceful Retirement

Retirement is the time to treat yourself after a lifetime of working, to complete your bucket list...

Latest Wednesday Lotto Results

Wednesday Lotto draw 3917 Lucky numbers for this draw were 43 followed by 25. The rest of the...