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.

Marijuana and Chronic Pain

Photo Credit: Jurassic Blueberries / Flickr (https://bit.ly/2OAkcaF)

Photo Credit: Jurassic Blueberries / Flickr (https://bit.ly/2OAkcaF)

Medical marijuana is recognized for its analgesic properties, which makes it beneficial for those who suffer from chronic pain or other pain producing conditions, and which could have significant implications in the fight against the opioid epidemic. One study published in 2015 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that analyzed six trials involving a total of 325 patients with chronic pain and six trials involving 396 patients with neuropathic pain found both THC and CBD provided effective analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects. Many find marijuana preferable to pharmaceutical medications because it is not only effective, but also has little habit-forming risk, has few side effects, and cannot cause a fatal overdose. States that have enacted medical marijuana laws have witnessed a 15-35% reduction in substance abuse admissions and opiate overdoses, according to public health records. Marijuana may provided an appropriate substitute for opioid medications and may also help with the withdrawal process from such medications.

To read about some of the studies to support these claims, visit the original post on Leaf Science’s website. This information has been 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.

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. 

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. 

Medical Marijuana Legalization Associated with Fewer Opioid-Related Hospitalizations

Data published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence suggests statewide medical marijuana access reduces opioid-related hospitalizations. A researcher from the University of California at San Diego analyzed medical cannabis laws and opioid-related hospitalizations and found both immediate and long-term reductions in these hospitalizations following the implementation of such laws. The author reported, “This study demonstrated significant reductions on OPR- (opioid pain reliever) related hospitalizations associated with the implementation of medical marijuana policies. … We found reductions in OPR-related hospitalizations immediately after the year of policy implementation as well as delayed reductions in the third post-policy year.” The author also stated, “While the interpretation of the results should remain cautious, this study suggested that medical marijuana policies were not associated with marijuana-related hospitalizations. Instead, the policies were unintendedly associated with substantial reductions in OPR related hospitalizations.”

This information has been provided by The Daily Chronic 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. 

Is Marijuana the Answer to the Opioid Epidemic?

Photo Credit: David Kessler/Flickr (http://bit.ly/2oEWqwG).

Photo Credit: David Kessler/Flickr (http://bit.ly/2oEWqwG).

We are living in the midst of an opioid epidemic. In Ontario alone, according to a 2014 issue of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, annual deaths from opioids have risen 242% between 1991 and 2010, with 127 opioid related deaths occurring in 1991 and 550 occurring in 2010. Now, research is mounting suggesting medical marijuana may be the answer to this epidemic. Research from the University of Georgia suggests medical marijuana may treat depression and pain in senior citizens, one of the high-risk groups for opioid addiction. A 2014  study from the JAMA Internal Medicine observed that states that had medical marijuana laws implemented before 2010 had less opioid related deaths than states without medical marijuana programs by 25 percent. 

Medical marijuana allows patients to decrease or eliminate their use of opioids, which in turn reduces prescription spending under Medicare Part D. The cannabinoids in cannabis interact with receptors in the body without leading towards addiction, or more importantly, overdose and death. This allows patients to substitute medical marijuana for opioid medications without long-term burdens. THC not only interacts with pain receptors to manage pain symptoms, but it also can reduce side effects associated with painkillers like nausea and fogginess, making it equally important supplementing pain medications as it does in relieving pain itself.

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

Signs Medical Marijuana is Taming the Opioid Epidemic

Photo Credit: Frankieleon/Flickr (http://bit.ly/2oDo1xx)

Photo Credit: Frankieleon/Flickr (http://bit.ly/2oDo1xx)

In states where medical marijuana has legalized, data has shown that patients prefer use of the new medication to the use of traditional opioids. Surveys have shown patients prefer medical marijuana for its effective analgesic properties and safety profile, and data has shown that prescriptions from Medicare Part D in legalized states have declined. Now, there is one more piece of evidence that suggests patients may be substituting medical marijuana for opioids. According to researchers from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health who have analyzed federal data involving motor vehicle accidents, fewer drivers who died as a result of fatal automobile accidents tested positive for opioids in states where medical marijuana was legal. 

The study was published in the American Journal of Public Health, with researchers concluding that the analysis provided proof that patients reduced their use of opioids in states where medical marijuana laws were implemented. Lead study author June H. Kim said of the study, "We would expect the adverse consequences of opioid use to decrease over time in states where medical marijuana use is legal, as individuals substitute marijuana for opioids in the treatment of severe or chronic pain." 

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

Could Medical Cannabis Break the Painkiller Epidemic?

Photo Credit: Scientific American

Photo Credit: Scientific American

The Department of Health and Human Services says the United States is caught in an opioid epidemic, and prescription opioid overdoses have resulted in the deaths of over 165,000 Americans between 1999 and 2014. Fifteen years ago, researchers led by Marcus Bachhuber from the Montefiore Medical Center in New York City began looking into the anecdotes of patients who used medical marijuana to treat pain instead of opioids. The study, which was published in 2014, found states with legalized medical marijuana had 25% fewer opioid overdoses annually than states that prohibited medical marijuana. Bachhuber said, “I think medical cannabis could fall into the category of alternatives for treating chronic pain so that people don't use opioids or use a lower dose of opioids than they otherwise would."

This study is not alone. Another study from the University of Michigan analyzed 185 medical marijuana patients, and found they reported reducing their opioid use by more than half. Animal studies found cannabinoid work well supplementing opioids to manage pain. Another study, published in the Clinical Journal of Pain and co-authored by Simon Haroutounian of the Washington University Pain Center in St. Louis, looked at 176 chronic pain patients in Israel over the course of seven month, and found that during that time 44% of them had stopped taking prescription opioids after starting medical cannabis dosing regimens. While these observational studies provide useful data about patients who use cannabis instead of opioids, more in depth and large scale clinical trials are necessary in actually proving the cause and effect relationship between cannabis use and opioid substitution. Unfortunately, cannabis' schedule I status makes it difficult to conduct these trials.

This information has been provided by the Scientific American and approved by our Chief Medical Officer.