Using marijuana may help treat the symptoms of chronic pelvic pain (CPP), according to a new study.

The condition is thought to affect around 15 percent of women in the US, the majority of whom are believed to self-manage the symptoms. Researchers from the Mayo Clinic hypothesized that using cannabis is a common way to achieve this and so set out to investigate the prevalence of marijuana use among women with CPP for the first time in the US.

The resulting studyUse of Cannabis for Self-Management of Chronic Pelvic Pain – found 23 percent of respondents regularly use marijuana as an alternative or supplement to conventional treatments to ease the pelvic pain they experience, and that most of these users report improvements in their symptoms.

“The majority used [cannabis] at least once per week…Most users…reported improvement in symptoms, including pain, cramping, muscle spasms, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, libido, and irritability,” the authors of the study – published in the Journal of Women’s Health – wrote. “Over one-third (35%) stated that cannabis use decreased the number of phone calls or messages sent to their provider, and 39% reported decreased number of clinical visits.”

These findings were drawn from the responses of 113 women with CPP who live in Florida, where medical marijuana is legal.

“[U]sers indicated that cannabis improved CPP-related symptoms, decreased reliance on the health care system, and helped reduce use of opioid medications,” the study reads. “Our findings provide important incremental evidence, and we hope to pave the way toward acceptance and consideration of cannabis as a therapeutic option for patients with debilitating pain to improve their quality of life.”

This is far from the first study to demonstrate a link between the uptake of cannabis to mitigate the worst effects of chronic conditions and a reduction in the use of highly addictive opioids. One study from 2019 found prescriptions for opioids decreased by 12 percent following marijuana legalization in Colorado. Another study published last year reported “a much higher reduction in opioid dosage, reduced emergency room visits, and hospital admissions for chronic non-cancer pain by MC [medical cannabis] users, compared to people with no additional use of MC.”

More than 42,000 people died of opioid overdoses in the U.S. in 2016, with patients taking prescription drugs accounting for 40 percent of this total. That’s why those researchers believe marijuana must be given due consideration as an alternative to opioids.

“Given the current opioid epidemic in the USA and medical cannabis’s recognized analgesic properties, MC could serve as a viable option to achieve opioid dosage reduction in managing non-cancer chronic pain,” the authors of that study concluded.