New Mexico Study Finds Medical Marijuana May Help Reduce Opioid Addiction

Photo Credit:  Flickr / frankieleon / CC BY 2.0

Photo Credit: Flickr / frankieleon / CC BY 2.0

A new study coming from New Mexico and published in the journal PLOS ONE can be added to the mounting support suggesting medical marijuana can combat the opioid epidemic. The study led by Dr. Jacob Miguel Vigil and Dr. Sarah See Stith looked at 37 chronic pain patients who used opioids habitually and enrolled in New Mexico’s medical marijuana program between 2010 and 2015, and found cannabis helped reduce opioid addiction in these patients. The researchers simultaneously looked at 29 patients who did not enroll in the medical marijuana program. Using the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program, the researchers compared opioid record between the two groups over a 21 month period. Those who used medical marijuana were 17 times more likely to stop opioid use, and 5 times more likely to reduce their daily opioid intake. Daily dosage averaged at a 47% reduction through medical marijuana use. Those who chose not to enroll in the state’s program experienced a 10% increase in dosage. The researchers hope for more in depth, randomized, and placebo-based clinical trials moving forward.

This information has been provided by Marijuana Industry News and approved by our Chief Medical Officer.

Study: Medical Cannabis Registrants More Likely To Cease Using Opioids Compared To Non-Participants

Photo Credit: NORML

Photo Credit: NORML

According to a new study published in the journal PLOS One, registered medical marijuana patients who use the medication to treat chronic pain are more likely to reduce or cease use of opioids compared to those who are not enrolled and suffer from similar pain conditions. Researchers from the University of New Mexico analyzed prescription use over the course of 21 months in 37 medical marijuana pain patients and 29 non-registered pain patients. They found 83.8% of medical marijuana patients reduced daily opioid use while 44.8% of non-registered patients reduced daily use. Additionally, 40.5% of medical marijuana patients stopped use completely, while only 3.4% of non-registered patients stopped use. Those who enrolled in medical marijuana programs also reported a better quality of life. The authors concluded, “The clinically and statistically significant evidence of an association between MCP enrollment and opioid prescription cessation and reductions and improved quality of life warrants further investigations on cannabis as a potential alternative to prescription opioids for treating chronic pain.”

This information has been provided by NORML and approved by our Chief Medical Officer.

Can Marijuana Help With Back Pain?

Photo Credit: WolfBlur/Pixabay

Photo Credit: WolfBlur/Pixabay

Marijuana’s analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties make it a potential candidate for reducing back pain. Currently, massages or chiropractic therapy, over-the-counter medications, and prescription medications like opioids are used to treat back pain. There are many clinical trials that suggest cannabis could be a powerful treatment option for pain reduction. One study found patients who inhaled vaporized cannabis three times a day over the course of five days significantly reduced their chronic pain. Another review of six clinical trials found “high quality” evidence that cannabis could provide powerful pain relief. One study found 34 patients with treatment-resistant chronic pain cannabis extracts significantly improved pain management. Indeed, most patients in the U.S. and Canada cite chronic pain as their main reason for using medical marijuana. Researchers believe cannabis is able to combat pain by interacting with the endocannabinoid system and blocking pain signals from being sent to the brain.

At a time when opioids are seemingly overprescribed and the opioid epidemic is rampant, medical marijuana is a welcomed player in pain management. One survey found 97% of participants successfully decreased their use of opioids thanks to marijuana. and 81% found cannabis was more effective on its own at treating their condition. Another survey found 63% of 166 respondents enrolled in Canada’s national medical cannabis system substituted prescriptions with cannabis, and 32% attributed their substitution to fewer side effects and better symptom management.

This information has been provided by Leaf Science and approved by our Chief Medical Officer.

Yet Another Study Says Cannabis Can Curb Or Even Prevent Opioid Use

Photo Credit: Civilized

Photo Credit: Civilized

The idea that cannabis may be able to combat the opioid epidemic is nothing new, and now, yet another study is providing evidence that cannabis may be able to curb the crisis. A new study from British Columbia and published in the Harm Reduction Journal suggests medical marijuana can reduce or prevent opioid use, and offer those suffering from addiction an exit strategy. Author Philippe Lucas explains, “There’s a growing body of evidence that cannabis can be a safer substitute and play a harm-reduction role by reducing the use of prescription opioids, reducing the use of alcohol, and even reducing the use of tobacco and illicit substances… [Cannabis has] no chance of [fatal] overdose, far less of a chance of developing dependence, and you don’t have a lot of the similar side effects you do with opioids.” Next steps for Lucas including studying cannabis as an adjunct treatment for methadone and suboxone, in which half of participants will take opioid medications and the other half will take cannabis.

This information has been provided by Civilized and approved by our Chief Medical Officer.

Topical Cannabis Preparations Associated With Reduced Opioid Use

Photo Credit: The Daily Chronic

Photo Credit: The Daily Chronic

A series of case reports conducted by researchers from the University of Toronto and published in the Journal of Pain Symptom Management has determined whole-plant cannabis extracts, when applied topically to ulcer wounds, is associated with reduced pain and opioid use in patients with leg and ankle ulcers resulting from Pyoderma Gangrenosum (PG). In all of the three patients who participated in the study, extracts containing equal parts THC and CBD effectively reduced pain and opioid utilization. Authors concluded, “This is the first case series to demonstrate the potential of TMC (topical medical cannabis) to provide effective analgesia that was opioid sparing in the setting of PG… TMC has the potential to improve pain management in patients suffering from wounds of all classes.”

A larger study is left to be desired to confirm these findings. This information has been brought to you by the Daily Chronic and approved by our Chief Medical Officer.

Study Shows Majority of Chronic Pain & Mental Health Patients Prefer Cannabis to Opioids

Photo Credit: Medicinal Marijuana Association

Photo Credit: Medicinal Marijuana Association

A new study published in the International Journal of Drug Policy suggests chronic pain and mental health patients prefer cannabis to opioids. In the study, researchers surveyed 250 patients, of which 63% used cannabis in place of opioids, sedatives, and antidepressants. Patients who substituted cannabis for opioids and benzodiazepines, which were the two primary classes of drugs that were substituted, cited fewer side-effects, better symptom management, and a better safety profile as their top reasons for making the swap. This study has huge implications when it comes to battling the opioid epidemic that is sweeping the nation today. With fewer side effects and a higher safety profile, patients can feel more in control of effectively managing their symptoms without risking adverse side effects or overdose.

This information has been provided by the Medicinal Marijuana Association and approved by our Chief Medical Officer. 

Research Says Cannabis Helps Fight Addiction

Photo Credit: MassRoots

Photo Credit: MassRoots

Research is mounting suggesting cannabis can help fight addiction. One study published in the Journal of American Medicine (JAMA) found states with legalized medical cannabis experienced 24.8% lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rates than states where medical marijuana was illegal. Another study found states saw a sharp decrease in patients admitted for opioid abuse after legalizing medical marijuana. Patients also spent less on prescription drugs for depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders, as a result of cannabis use. Researchers from the University of Montreal and the University of British Columbia found patients used cannabis to cope with crack cocaine addiction, and concluded, “Given the substantial global burden of morbidity and mortality attributable to crack cocaine use disorders alongside a lack of effective pharmacotherapies, we echo a call for rigorous experimental research on cannabinoids as a potential treatment for crack cocaine use disorders.”

Cannabis users and former heroin addicts are also more likely to complete their addiction treatment program than non-cannabis users. Lastly, cannabis can also combat addiction to legal substances like cigarettes and alcohol. One clinical trial found CBD helped patients reduce their cigarette use by 40% in comparison with patients who received placebo. Another study found 40% of medical marijuana patients were able to reduce their alcohol consumption. Authors call for a desire for more research, but say, “cannabis does appear to be a potential substitute for alcohol.” Additionally, cannabis may ease alcohol withdrawal symptoms. 

This information has been provided by MassRoots and approved by our Chief Medical Officer.

Will Cannabis Help End the Opioid-Abuse Epidemic?

Photo Credit: High Times

Photo Credit: High Times

In the past decade, the use and abuse of opioid prescriptions has grown exponentially, resulting in an explosive rise opioid-related fatal overdoses. Now, handfuls of studies suggest cannabis could be a powerful natural replacement for opioids, and with no risk of fatalities, it could make a significant dent in the amount of opioid related deaths. Research shows medical marijuana can benefit chronic pain, neuropathic pain, and spasticity resulting from multiple sclerosis, all of which are conditions where opioids are traditionally prescribed. Some researchers also hypothesize its neuroprotective properties could play a role in reducing dependence on opioids when used in conjunction with marijuana. 

The results are already pointing towards to efficacy of marijuana in the reduction of opioid use. An analysis of Medicare programs in marijuana-legal state found doctors prescribed fewer painkillers than in non legal states. Additionally, chronic pain patients account for the largest portion of medical marijuana patients in states where chronic pain is a qualifying condition, suggesting medical marijuana is effective as an analgesic. 

This information is provided by High Times and approved by our Chief Medical Officer.  

People Prefer Marijuana to Opiates

Photo Credit: High Times Magazine

Photo Credit: High Times Magazine

The studies suggesting marijuana reduces opioid use are piling up, and now we can add another study to the list. Researchers from Bastyr University surveyed 2,774 adults from 50 states and 42 countries who used cannabis at least once in 90 days. Of the respondents, only 59% were medical marijuana users. Of those, 46% used cannabis as a substitute for prescription drugs. Researchers found, As the researchers wrote, “The most common classes of drugs substituted were narcotics/opioids (35.8%), anxiolytics/benzodiazepines (13.6%) and antidepressants (12.7%)... These patient-reported outcomes support prior research that individuals are using cannabis as a substitute for prescription drugs, particularly, narcotics/opioids, and independent of whether they identify themselves as medical or non-medical users... This is especially true if they suffer from pain, anxiety and depression.”

This study has been published in the Journal of Pain Research. Read more about it on High Times. This post has been approved by our Chief Medical Officer. 

New Study Shows Accessible Medical Marijuana Helps Fight Opioid Addiction

Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Valerie Monroy

Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Valerie Monroy

According to data published in Reuters and the Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence, states that have adopted medical marijuana programs witnessed hospitalization rates for opioid painkiller abuse drop by 23%, and opioid overdoses dropped by an average 13%. Author of the study, Yuyan Shi, looked at hospitals in 27 states from 1997-2014, of which 9 of the states passed medical marijuana laws within that time frame. Those states that passed these laws saw a significant reduction in opioid related hospitalization. This study supports other studies that found similar results, like that of John Hopkins University in 2016 which found states with medical marijuana programs witnessed a 25% decrease in opioid-related deaths. 

This information has been provided by Merry Jane and approved by our Chief Medical Officer. 

Study: Medical Marijuana Patients Reduce Their Use of Opioids

Photo Credit: the Daily Chronic

Photo Credit: the Daily Chronic

Yet another study has suggested patients who have access to medical marijuana are more likely to choose it over prescription medications. The study, which was published in The International Journal of Drug Policy, involved 277 patients registered the Canadian government's medical marijuana program. Researchers from the University of Victoria and the University of British Columbia looked at the use of medical marijuana and prescription medications, and found 63% of participants swapped their prescription medications with cannabis. Out of those patients, 32% substituted cannabis for opioids, 16% for benzodiazepines, and 12% for anti-depressants. Patients reasoned cannabis was safer, provided better symptom management, and resulted in fewer side effects.

Authors of the study wrote, “The finding that patients using cannabis to treat pain-related conditions have a higher rate of substitution for opioids, and that patients self-reporting mental health issues have a higher rate of substitution for benzodiazepines and antidepressants has significant public health implications. In light of the growing rate of morbidity and mortality associated with these prescription medications, cannabis could play a significant role in reducing the health burden of problematic prescription drug use.”

This information has been provided by the Daily Chronic and approved by our Chief Medical Officer. 

Is CBD the Answer to America’s Opioid Epidemic?

Photo Credit: Medical Marijuana Inc. 

Photo Credit: Medical Marijuana Inc. 

Yet another research review suggests CBD could help those suffering opioid addiction by reducing cravings and relieving withdrawal symptoms. For this review, which was published in the journal Trends in Neuroscience, the Director of the Center for Addictive Disorders for the Mount Sinai Behavioral Health System Yasmin L. Hurd, PhD, looked over animal studies and human pilot studies. Dr. Hurd says, “If you look at both drugs and where their receptors are, opioids are much more dangerous in part because of the potential for overdose. The opioid receptors are very abundant in the brainstem area that regulates our respiration so they shut down the breathing center if opioid doses are high... Cannabinoids do not do that. They have a much wider window of therapeutic benefit without causing an overdose in adults.”

Dr. Hurd is now running a larger clinical trial to investigate whether or not cannabis can help those addicted to opioids. She hopes her findings will encourage doctors to recommend cannabis, which has a much higher safety profile, over opioids to patients with chronic pain. She also hopes the bars that have been blocking adequate marijuana research will be lifted so that the findings can guide future medical recommendations and legalization policies. She says, “For one of the first times in U.S. history, it is the general public and politicians, not scientists and physicians, who are determining the medical value of this drug in states where marijuana use has been legalized for medical purposes. Clearly, the legalization of marijuana has outpaced the science. But if we want to be able to accurately say something is medical marijuana, we have to prove that it is, indeed, medicinal.”

This information has been provided by Medical Marijuana Inc. and approved by our Chief Medical Officer. 

Can Medical Marijuana Help End the Opioid Epidemic?

Image: Getty Images; Illustration by Kenneth Bachor of TIME

Image: Getty Images; Illustration by Kenneth Bachor of TIME

A report from father-daughter team W. David and Ashley C. Bradford and published in the journal Health Affairs has analyzed the data on prescriptions filled by Medicare enrollees between 2010 to 2013 and discovered that older people were making use of the medication when available and appropriate. The data also revealed that states with legalized medical marijuana saw a lower rate of prescription painkillers and other medications. Doctors prescribed on average 1,826 fewer doses of painkillers per year. This is welcomed news in the fight against opioid addiction, as fatal overdose from prescription medications have quadrupled since 1999. States where medical marijuana reduced opioid prescriptions have, as a result, saved $165.2 million per year in medical costs.

Marijuana's status as a Schedule I drug make it difficult to research and regulate, but there are studies that support the claim the medical marijuana can treat pain and combat addiction. One study from 2014 and published in the journal JAMA found states with legalized medical marijuana saw a 25%drop in opioid overdose deaths. An analysis published in JAMA in 2015 analyzed 79 studies which found cannabinoids offered a 30% or greater reduction in pain.

This information has been provided by Time Magazine and approved by our Chief Medical Officer.

 

Canada: Rising Popularity Of Medical Cannabis Among Veterans Associated With Declining Opioid Use

Photo Credit: NORML

Photo Credit: NORML

Opioid abuse and addiction is at an all time high, and studies suggest that the legalization of and increased access to medical cannabis can target this epidemic. We can further see evidence of the decline of opioid use thanks to cannabis by looking at the veteran population in Canada. According to federal data provided to The Globe and Mail, the increased use medical cannabis has been associated with a decline in prescription opiates and benzodiazepines. The records provided by Veterans Affairs Canada showed the number of veterans using benzodiazepines feel 30% between 2012-3016, and veteran use of opiates dropped 17%. At the same time, veterans seeking medical cannabis increased from less than 100 to over 1,700 patients.

This case study is small, but it remains consistent with other studies that suggest patients prefer to replace their prescription medications and opiates with medical cannabis. This information has been provided by NORML and approved by our Chief Medical Officer. 

Opioid Abuse Rates Lower In Medical Cannabis States

Photo: NORML

Photo: NORML

There is now countless of information to support the idea that medical cannabis can combat the opioid epidemic and therefore reduce the rate of opioid overdose and fatalities. Now, there is yet another study to support this claim. According to data reported by the employee health benefits platform provider Castlight Health, rates of prescription opioid abuse are significantly lower in areas that have permitted access to medical marijuana.

Investigators analyzed anonymous prescription reporting data from over one million employees between 2011 and 2015, and found that within states that did not legalize medical marijuana, 5.4% of those who had opioid prescription also qualified as an abuser of the drug, meaning they did not receive palliative care, received greater than a 90-day supply of medications, and had a prescription from four or more providers. In states that legalized medical marijuana, only 2.8% of those who had a prescriptions qualified as opioid abusers.

This information has been provided by NORML and approved by our Chief Medical Officer. You can also find full text of the study here

 

Is Medical Marijuana the Answer to the Opioid Epidemic?

Photo Credit: Medicinal Marijuana Association

Photo Credit: Medicinal Marijuana Association

Fatal overdoses from opioid abuse have hit an all time high. The problem has hit pandemic levels in the United States, but the problem is a large concern globally. Opioids are highly addictive prescription drugs used to relieve pain, and they do so by reducing the intensity of pain signals that are sent to the brain and other receptors throughout the body. The drugs produce addictive side effects like drowsiness, relaxation, and euphoria, but they also have adverse side effects, like slowing the breathing process which can causes hypoxia and induce a coma, permanent brain damage, or a potentially fatal overdose. Countless clinical studies suggest patients who are prescribed opioids are able to reduce and replace their opioid use with Medical Marijuana. So, is medical marijuana the answer to the opioid epidemic? 

Similar to opioids, marijuana has analgesic effects, making it an effective painkiller. The cannabinoid THC works with pain receptors throughout the body in order to reduce pain levels. Marijuana is far safer than opioids, however, because it is less addictive, has fewer side effects, and there are no confirmed cases of marijuana causing deadly overdoses. In clinical studies in which patients replace their opioids with medical marijuana, they do not report experiencing nausea or a loss of appetite, and they are able to function normally without the narcotic-induced haziness. Some patients not only reduced their opioid use, but successfully weaned themselves off of the narcotic thanks to medical marijuana. A study at Columbia University found when patients were given a form of THC, their withdrawal symptoms were less severe and they were more likely to stay in rehabilitation in order to complete their course of treatment and successfully wean off of their opioids.

This information has been brought to you by the Medicinal Marijuana Association and approved by our Chief Medical Officer. 

Cannabis for Pain Reduction and the Discontinuation of Opioid Medications

Photo Credit: Steven Schwartz/Flickr 

Photo Credit: Steven Schwartz/Flickr 

A new study approved for publication in The Clinical Journal of Pain has found cannabis treatment may be able to produce long-term improvement in pain scores and reduced opioid consumption for those who suffer from treatment-resistant chronic pain. In the six month open-label study, participants added cannabis treatment to their existing medication regimens. Researchers then compared participant response surveys to assess the efficacy of medical cannabis on pain and other symptoms, and found that 66% of participants experienced pain reduction.

Some participants experienced moderate to severe adverse side effects, like sedation or difficulty concentrating, resulting in the discontinuation of cannabis treatment by nine participants. Two others discontinued cannabis therapy due to severe apparent adverse reactions, like elevated liver enzymes or confusion requiring hospitalization. While these effects shouldn't be taken lightly, the rate of these side effects is considered to be low, resulting in only 11 out of 206 participants who completed the survey. What's more important is that of the 73 participants who consumed opioids at the beginning of the study, 32 completely discontinued opioid use by their six-month followup.

This study is encouraging, but it should be noted that because it was open-label, both researchers and participants knew exactly what medication they were receiving, and therefore may have been biased as to the effects of their therapies. A similar controlled and double-blinded study should be conducted to verify these results. This information has been provided by JDSupra and approved by our Chief Medical Officer. 

Study: Long-Term Cannabis Use Mitigates Pain, Reduces Opioid Use

Photo Credit: The Daily Chronic

Photo Credit: The Daily Chronic

According to new clinical trial data published in The Clinical Journal of Pain, the daily and long-term use of cannabis improves analgesia and reduces opioid use in patients who suffer from treatment-resistant chronic pain. At the Hebrew University in Israel, researchers looked at a group of 176 chronic pain patients who had been unresponsive to conventional pharmaceutical medications. The subjects inhaled up to 20 grams of THC-dominant cannabis strains for a minimum of six months.

As a result of the study, the majority of participants, about 66%, experienced improved pain symptom scores after the use of cannabis therapy, and most participants reported improved quality of life. Overall, the subjects' consumption of opioid drugs declined by 44% by the end of the trial, along with a significant percentage of participants who discontinued their opioid therapy completely throughout the course of the study. Authors wrote, "In summary, this long-term prospective cohort suggests that cannabis treatment in a mixed group of patients with treatment-resistant chronic pain may result in improved pain, sleep and quality of life outcomes, as well as reduced opioid use."

This information has been provided by the Daily Chronic and approved by our Chief Medical Officer. 

Study: Long-Term Cannabis Use Associated With Improved Pain Relief, Reduced Opioid Use

Photo Credit: NORML

Photo Credit: NORML

According to data published in The Clinical Journal of Pain, the long-term use of cannabis on a daily basis improved analgesia and reduced opioid use in patients suffering from treatment-resistant chronic pain conditions. The Hebrew University in Israel study involved 176 patients who were unresponsive to conventional pain medications, and participants inhaled a THC-dominant cannabis strain daily for at least six months. About 66 percent of patients felt their pain symptom scores and their quality of life improved due to cannabis therapy. The patients' overall consumption of opioid drugs declined by 44 percent, and many participants completely discontinued their opioid therapy.

These results coincide with the results from a similar year-long Canadian study, in which patients experienced reduced pain and increased quality of life, as well as data suggesting medical marijuana laws in the United States have reduced opioid related abuse and fatal overdoses. This information has been provided by NORML and approved by our Chief Medical Officer. You can also see an abstract of the study here.  

Letter: Cannabis Can Help Patients with Chronic Pain

Photo Credit: DankDepot.com

Photo Credit: DankDepot.com

In an open letter written by Dr. Marc Sloan, from Deerfield, Illinois, Dr. Sloan discusses the benefits of using cannabis as opposed to opioid pharmaceuticals to treat chronic pain. Dr. Sloan, who has been a practicing physician in Illinois for over 30 years, discusses how severe the current opioid overdose epidemic is, mentioning, "According to the CDC, 46 people die each day from prescription drug painkiller overdose, and health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers in 2012 - enough for every American adult to have a bottle of narcotics." He goes on to discuss how the cannabinoid THC, one of the more active ingredients of cannabis, can effectively reduce pain in patients with minimal toxicity and without risk of lethal overdose. 

Dr. Sloan sites two reports in his letter as supporting evidence for the use of cannabis to combat chronic pain. In one report, "Cannabinoids for Medical Use," written by the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2015, patients reported a 30 percent reduction in pain and a decrease in overall use of narcotics. The other report, "Cannabinergic Pain Medicine," written in 2012 by the Clinical Journal of Pain, claimed 71 percent of studies found cannabis provided pain-relieving effects. Dr. Sloan concludes his letter saying while cannabis is not a cure for chronic pain, it is a powerful and effective tool in pain management that is far safer than most current pharmaceutical options. 

Read the full letter from Dr. Marc Sloan here. This information has been approved by our Chief Medical Officer.