Marijuana for Pain Relief: New Study Finds It’s a Cost-Effective Option

Smoking cannabis can provide cost-effective, secondary treatment for those who suffer from neurological pain, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of California – San Diego and Columbia University conducted the study. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research published the research, which involved looking at records of more than 1 million patients.

Researchers created a computer simulation that supplemented the first, second and third lines of care for the patients that smoked cannabis. To simulate results, they used data from clinical trials and research to model the projected efficacy of marijuana. For costs, they looked at cannabis retail market pricing.

The conclusion: “Cannabis appears cost-effective when augmenting second-line treatment for painful neuropathy.” But the researchers also said more study is needed on marijuana for pain relief, something that is difficult to accomplish right now in the United States.

The Ongoing Opioid Crisis

The researchers took on this project in part because of the continued, “unabated” opioid crisis. While many opioid deaths are caused by illegal heroin and synthetic opioids, drug overdoses have also been rising for those who take prescription opioids.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now breaks the crisis down into three waves. The first happened in the mid-1990s, with deaths from prescription opioid overdose starting to increase in about 1999. In 2010, a second wave of heroin-related deaths happened. The third wave started in 2013 with deaths from fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, increasing dramatically.

To understand why researchers wanted to investigate CBD, it’s important to understand the scope of the opioid epidemic. For example, the CDC reports that:

  • In 2017, 68% of more than 70,200 drug overdose deaths in the U.S. involved an opioid
  • That same year, the number of deaths from overdose involving an opioid was six times higher than in 1999
  • At this point, about 130 people in the U.S. die every day from opioid use

Marijuana for Pain Relief

The chances of further study into the use of marijuana for pain relief have increased in recent weeks as the U.S. House of Representatives, now controlled by Democrats, gets set to consider legislation that would remove marijuana for the federal list of illegal drugs.

The opioid crisis is one reason given by politicians for making marijuana legal and allowing for more study into its effectiveness as a medicine. It goes together with other arguments.

Those include the fact that the War on Drugs has had a harder impact on minority communities; the many voters approving legalization across the country; and the fact marijuana may have health benefits beyond what is known.

The recent study pointed to the importance of more research and clinical trials on marijuana, as well as the potential for medical cannabis. The researchers wrote that a “growing body of scientific literature” reports that cannabis can prove effective in treating chronic neuropathic pain, including clinical trials that involved testing marijuana orally, smoked or vaporized.

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