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Medicinal cannabis linked to reduced rates of opioid use, according to studies

Multiple studies have linked access to medicinal cannabis with reduced rates of prolonged opioid use and abuse as well as a reduction in opioid-related hospitalisations, drug treatment admissions, traffic fatalities and overdose deaths.

Cureus conducted a survey on the effect that medical cannabis has on prescription opioid medication usage for the treatment of chronic pain at three medical cannabis practices in the United States.

The survey found that 40.4% of patients reported that they stopped all opioids and a further 45.2% of patients reported some decrease in their opioid usage.

“We believe our results lend further support that medical cannabis provided in a standardized protocol can lead to decreased pain and opioid usage, improved function, and quality of life measures, and even complete cessation of opioids in patients with chronic pain treated by opioids.” – Cureus, 2020

The study concluded that patients reported that cannabis was a useful adjunct and substitute for prescription opioids in treating their chronic pain and had the added benefit of improving the ability to function and quality of life.

A separate study carried out in Israel by the European Pain Federation found that patients reported an average decline of 20% in pain intensity after one year of using medicinal cannabis and all other parameters improved by 10 to 30 percent.

“A significant decrease of 42 percent from baseline in morphine equivalent daily dosage of opioids was also observed.” – European Journal of Pain, 2020

The report concluded that the study offered further evidence for the effects of medical cannabis on chronic pain and related symptoms, demonstrating an overall mild-to-modest long-term improvement of the tested measures and identifying possible predictors for treatment success.

A survey-based study by the Gynecologic Oncology Reports found that 63% of patients reported a reduction in opioid use after being prescribed with medical cannabis by a gynecologic oncologist.

The 43-item survey exploring the patient experience with medical cannabis concluded that medical cannabis was well tolerated by gynecology patients.

“Medical cannabis was well tolerated and may have the potential to improve neuropathic pain and decrease opioid use.” – Gynecologic Oncology Reports, 2020

A study published by Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research concluded the emerging evidence of cannabis’ role in Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) found that cannabis has the potential to reduce opioid consumption, ameliorate opioid cravings, prevent opioid relapse, improve OUD treatment retention and reduce overdose deaths.

“The compelling nature of these data and the relative safety profile of cannabis warrant further exploration of cannabis as an adjunct or alternative treatment for OUD.” – Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, 2020

The research-based evidence offers some hope to combating the worldwide opioid epidemic and decreasing the suffering caused by OUD.

Read more research on the relationship between marijuana and opioids published by NORML here.