A new study has found that using medical cannabis for pain management reduces the use of opioids among non-cancer patients. It’s yet another study that suggests people who want to get off opioids may have a viable option with marijuana.
The study, conducted by graduate students at the University of Arizona College of Public Health, found that non-cancer patients experienced a 64% to 75% reduction in opioid use when taken in combination with medical cannabis.
That finding mirrors results found in other studies involving opioid use and marijuana, including patients who ended up getting off opioids.
Researchers wrote that while the study “indicated the likelihood of reducing opioid dosage when used in combination with medical cannabis,” the optimal dosage of marijuana that can best achieve opioid dosage reduction remains unknown.
They added: “Given the current opioid epidemic in the U.S. and medical cannabis’s recognized analgesic properties, medical cannabis could serve as a viable option to achieve opioid dosage reduction in managing non-cancer chronic pain.”
The Study Looked at the Results of Previous Research
The graduate students analyzed the results of nine published reports on the impact of medical cannabis on non-cancer chronic pain. The review included data on 7,222 patients in Australia, Canada and the United States. The patients’ ages ranged from 34 to 70.
In addition to the reduction in opioid usage, the study also found that patients who used cannabis in combination with opioids had fewer emergency room visits and hospital admissions than those who did not use medical cannabis.
However, researchers also reported the potential for bias in the study and called for research into the topic. They called their results “promising,” and sufficient evidence that more research is required to determine if medical cannabis can help those who want to get off opioids with a pain-fighting alternative.
“As the U.S. grapples with the opioid abuse epidemic and searches for less addictive alternatives, experimental studies are urgently needed to assess the effects of cannabis on non-cancer chronic pain as well as its potential to reduce the need for opioids,” they wrote.
Growing Evidence on Marijuana As An Opioid Substitute
The study by the University of Arizona graduate students bolsters a growing amount of research on marijuana, pain management and opioids. A recent study by the University of Alabama and Vanderbilt University found that availability of recreational cannabis reduced prescriptions for “morphine milligram equivalents” by 11.8%.
A survey from Colorado found that 45% of all seniors had tried marijuana and that cannabis helped improve their overall health, quality of life and daily functioning. They also reported that marijuana helped with pain management.
These types of findings have led to more marijuana companies serving seniors, including a dispensary in Berkeley that opened in 2020 specifically to serve seniors.