Studies Part 1 - Cannabis as a Powerful Tool Against the Opioid Epidemic

Photo Credit: Marco Verch Professional Photographer (https://bit.ly/2kFn4bX)

Photo Credit: Marco Verch Professional Photographer (https://bit.ly/2kFn4bX)

In this three part series, we will discuss a new important study as it pertains to cannabis. In today’s post, we will look at a study from 2017 which was published in both PLoS One and the International Journal of Drug Policy that suggests cannabis could be an important player in the fight against the opioid epidemic, something which is especially important today as opioid addiction runs rampant throughout our communities. In the study, researchers from the University of New Mexico compared opioid use for the treatment of pain among both chronic pain patients who were enrolled in the state’s medical cannabis program and those who were not. Of those enrolled in the program, 84% reduced their use of opioids, and 41% stopped opioid use altogether. Those who were not enrolled only reduced their opioid use by 45%. Additionally, those who used medical cannabis reported the medication did not cause serious side effect and improved their overall quality of life. This study supports previous studies which found medical cannabis legalization is associated with fewer opioid-related overdoses and studies which found patients effectively used medical cannabis to manage symptoms and reduce prescription use.

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


Studies Confirm, Again, That Cannabis Reduces Opioid Use

Photo Credit: Merry Jane

Photo Credit: Merry Jane

In one of our recent posts, we discussed a survey coming from New Mexico, which found 80% of the 37 respondents enrolled in a medical marijuana program reduced their opioid use, and 40% stopped opioid use to use cannabis. Now, the preliminary results from another study conducted by private research firm Aclara in Illinois supports these results. In the study involving 400 Illinois patients, 67% stopped using opioids after enrolling in the state’s medical marijuana program. Additionally, 37% stopped using all conventional medications, and 60% reduced their use of prescription drugs and reduced their trips to the pharmacy. The study also reached out to 500 pharmacists in Illinois, and found 87% thought medical cannabis should be legal, and 69% thought pharmacies should have the ability to dispense the product. Carmen Brace, founder of Aclara Research, explains, “Patients are using cannabis, successfully, to wean themselves off opioid usage.” She continues to link the results of this study to one published in the Journal of Pain in 2016, in which chronic pain patients successfully reduced opioid use by 64%.

These studies are especially important in light of the opioid crisis, in which opioid-related deaths have skyrocketed. In one analysis from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in 2016, states that had implemented medical marijuana programs saw 25% fewer opioid-related deaths than states that did not have such programs. All of these studies point to the suggestion that cannabis can, in fact, fight the opioid crisis. This information has been provided by Merry Jane and approved by our Chief Medical Officer.

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.

Two Thirds Of Pain Patients In A New Study Used Cannabis To Get Off Opioids

Photo Credit: Civilized

Photo Credit: Civilized

According to a new survey of 400 patients and 500 pharmacists conducted by Aclara Research, two thirds of pain patients successfully weened off of opioids with the help of cannabis. Of those polled, 67% ceased use of opioids once enrolled in state regulated medical cannabis programs, and 29% able to reduce their use of opioids with cannabis, leaving only 4% with opioid use unaffected by cannabis access. Additionally, 30% of patients stopped using all prescription medications with the use of medical cannabis. Of the pharmacists polled, 87% supported legalized medical marijuana access, and 69% pharmacists should dispense the medication and provide guidance for its use. With the current situation, only 15% of patients discussed cannabis with their pharmacists, with 40% of users learning about the medication online. This survey supports findings from previous studies, and further illustrates how medical cannabis could be a powerful player in the fight against the opioid epidemic that is gripping the nation.

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

Study: Colorado’s Adult Use Cannabis Access Law Associated With Reductions In Opioid Deaths

Photo Credit: NORML

Photo Credit: NORML

There are various studies suggesting that the implementation of statewide medical marijuana programs can have a major impact in combatting the opioid crisis, but now studies suggest that even adult use access to recreational marijuana can also make a dent in the epidemic. The study, which was published in The American Journal of Public Health, involved a team of researchers from the University of North Texas School of Public Health, the University of Florida, and Emory University. By looking at the number of monthly opioid-related deaths that preceded Colorado’s adult use retailers against monthly opioid-related deaths after, they found that Colorado’s cannabis retail effectively reduced deaths related to opioid use. The researchers concluded, “Colorado’s legalization of recreational cannabis sales and use resulted in a 0.7 deaths per month reduction in opioid-related deaths. This reduction represents a reversal of the upward trend in opioid-related deaths in Colorado… Legalization of cannabis in Colorado was associated with short-term reductions in opioid-related deaths.”

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

Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Can Lead to Decrease in Painkiller Abuse: Study

Photo Credit: The Daily Chronic

Photo Credit: The Daily Chronic

According to a new study conducted by a University of Georgia economics professor and published on SSRN.com, cannabis dispensaries coincide with a drop in opioid-related treatment admissions and drug mortality. The study analyzed the effect of medical cannabis dispensaries on drug treatment admissions, and found within two years of opening such businesses, there was a 20% relative decrease in painkiller treatments, and fewer drug-related deaths per 100,000 people. The author writes, “[T]he unintended beneficial effects of allowing for marijuana dispensary operations should be considered by policymakers as they aim to curtail narcotic abuse and limit the impact of the opioid epidemic.”

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

Study: Trauma Patients Report Marijuana Helps Reduce Opioid Use

Photo Credit: the Daily Chronic

Photo Credit: the Daily Chronic

According to a new study from Harvard Medical School which was published in the Journal of Orthopaedic Trauma, patients who experience a musculoskeletal injury can effectively relieve pain symptoms and reduce their opioid use through the use of medical cannabis. In the survey, which involved 500 patients from a pair of orthopedic outpatient clinics, 90% of patients who reported using cannabis for recuperation within the past six months effectively reduced their pain, and 81% were able to reduce their use of opioids. Authors explained, “[I]n the subset of patients who used marijuana during their recovery, a majority indicated that it helped alleviate symptoms of pain and reduced their level of opioid intake.”

This information has been provided by the Daily Chronic 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.

Vast Majority of Pain Patients Prefer Cannabis to Opioids, Study Finds

Photo Credit: Wikipedia (https://bit.ly/2PVTzMT)

Photo Credit: Wikipedia (https://bit.ly/2PVTzMT)

Yet another study has determined patients prefer using medical cannabis to opioid medications. The study involved nearly 3,000 medical cannabis patients, of which nearly all responded they were able to reduce their opioid consumption after bringing cannabis into their dosing routine, and a vast majority also preferred using cannabis to their prescription pills. In the survey, HelloMD and the University of California Berkeley asked questions regarding cannabis as a substitute for opioid and non-opioid based pain medication. They found 97% of respondents agreed or agreed strongly that they could reduce opioid painkiller use through cannabis, while 92% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed cannabis effectively treated their condition and was the preferable means for symptom management. Additionally, 81% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that cannabis alone was more effective than using it in addition to opioids, with a similar response when asked about consuming cannabis with non-opioid medications.

Dr. Perry Soloman, chief medical officer for HelloMD, explains, “The latest publication from the National Academy of Sciences clearly refuted the ‘gateway drug’ theory that using marijuana can lead to opioid addiction, instead finding evidence of cannabis having multiple curative benefits… Our study further substantiates this. Hopefully this will awaken the public, medical professionals and legislatures to the fact that cannabis is a safe, non-addictive product, available to help fight the opioid epidemic.”

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

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. 

Study: Patients Report Substituting Cannabis For Opioids, Other Pain Medications

Photo Credit: NORML

Photo Credit: NORML

According to data published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, patients are successfully substituting cannabis for opioids and other analgesics for the treatment of pain. Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, and Kent State University looked at data from 2,897 self-identified medical cannabis patients, of which 97% of those who acknowledged using opioid medications within the past 6 months were able to decrease their intake with thanks to the use of cannabis. Ninety-two percent of respondents also claimed cannabis had fewer side effects than opioids, and eighty-two percent said medical cannabis provided better relief and symptom management. Of the participants who had taken nonopioid-based pain medications, 96% were able to reduce their usage after beginning cannabis use, and 92% claimed medical cannabis was the more effective option. Authors explained, “[M]ore people are looking at cannabis as a viable treatment for everyday ailments such as muscle soreness and inflammation. … [T]his study can conclude that medical cannabis patients report successfully using cannabis along with or as a substitute for opioid-based pain medication.”

This information has been provided by NORML 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. 

Study: Medical Cannabis Patients Report Decreased Use of Opioids, Anti-Anxiety Medicines

Photo Credit: The Daily Chronic

Photo Credit: The Daily Chronic

New self-reported data published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology reveals patients who have access to medical marijuana decrease their use of opioids, anti-depressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and other medications. Investigators out of five states looked at the medical history of 1,500 patient-members of state-licensed dispensaries in the northeast and found 77% of respondents reduced their use of opioids after beginning cannabis therapy. Many respondents also decreased their use of anti-anxiety medications (72%), migraine-related medications (67%), sleep aids (65%), and anti-depressants (38%). Additionally, 42% of respondents reduced their use of alcohol. The findings of this study support the findings of previous studies regarding the effects of cannabis on opioids and other prescription medications.

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