A study observing the impact of medical cannabis on prescribed opioid usage in chronic pain patients has revealed interesting results.
The US opioid epidemic claimed 47,600 lives in 2017 and it’s estimated 10.3 million people were misusing opioids in 2018 – a staggering 3.7% of the US population. It’s thought medical cannabis may be able to help address the situation and various studies have indicated this might be the case.
One of the more recent studies involved 525 patients from three medical cannabis practice sites who had used prescription opioid medications to treat chronic pain for at least 3 months continuously – and were using medical cannabis in combination with these medications.
40.4% reported they stopped all opioids while 45.2% reported some decrease. 13.3% reported no change in opioid usage, and 1.1% reported an increase. Furthermore, 48.2% reported a 40-100% decrease in pain, 80.2% reported an improved ability to function and 87% an improved quality of life using medical cannabis. 62.8% didn’t want to take opioids in the future.
“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,” state the paper’s authors.
A change in pain level was reportedly not affected by age and gender. However, the younger age group (<46 years old) indicated improved ability to function compared with middle (46-55 years) and older age groups.
The authors of the paper are Kevin M. Takakuwa, Emergency Medicine, Society of Cannabis Clinicians, Sebastopol, USA, and Dustin Sulak, General Practice, Integr8 Health, Falmouth, USA. Their research has been published in the journal Cereus, and can be viewed here.
Some detail of the other studies we’ve mentioned over the years indicating medical cannabis could be useful in addressing the USA’s opioid scourge are here, here, here, here and here. More can be found using this search.
A number of US states now list opioid substitution as a qualifying condition for their medical cannabis programs – including New York.