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Study: Cannabis Improves Outcomes In Opioid-Dependent Subjects Undergoing Treatment

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 30, 2015

    cannabis_pillsCannabis use is associated with improved outcomes in opioid-dependent subjects undergoing outpatient treatment, according to data published online ahead of print in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

    Researchers at Columbia University assessed the use of cannabinoids versus placebo in opioid-dependent subjects undergoing in-patient detoxification and outpatient treatment with naltrexone, an opiate receptor antagonist. Investigators reported that the administration of oral THC (dronabinol) during the detoxification process lowered the severity of subjects’ withdrawal symptoms compared to placebo, but that these effects did not persist over the entire course of treatment. By contrast, patients who consumed herbal cannabis during the outpatient treatment phase were more readily able to sleep, were less anxious, and were more likely to complete their treatment as compared to those subjects who did not.

    “One of the interesting study findings was the observed beneficial effect of marijuana smoking on treatment retention,” authors concluded. “Participants who smoked marijuana had less difficulty with sleep and anxiety and were more likely to remain in treatment as compared to those who were not using marijuana, regardless of whether they were taking dronabinol or placebo.”

    The findings replicate those of two prior studies, one from 2001 and another from 2009, reporting greater treatment adherence among subjects who consumed cannabis intermittently during outpatient therapy.

    Population data from states where medicinal cannabis is permitted report lower rates of opioid-abuse and mortality as compared to those states where the plant is prohibited. Clinical data and case reports also indicate that the adjunctive use of cannabis may wean patients from opiates while successfully managing their pain. Survey data of state qualified medical cannabis patients demonstrates that subjects with access to the plant often substitute it for opioids because they perceive it to possess fewer adverse side effects.

    Overdose deaths involving opioids have increased dramatically in recent years. While fewer than 4,100 opiate-induced fatalities were reported for the year 1999, by 2010 this figure rose to over 16,600 according to an analysis by the US Centers for Disease Control.

    An abstract of the study, “The effects of dronabinol during detoxification and the initiation of treatment with extended release naltrexone,” appears online here.

    24 Responses to “Study: Cannabis Improves Outcomes In Opioid-Dependent Subjects Undergoing Treatment”

    1. Raven says:

      Wow, Rosenberg, the jokes just keep comming. I’m laughing my self silly.

    2. Don M says:

      I wonder why tests are being performed with “smoked” marijuana instead of vaped. Is it because anti-marijuana types have said that “smoked” marijuana is not medicine?

      Personally, I believe it has medicinal properties used either way but also believe that vaporization is the superior method of usage.

    3. Ben says:

      And again, another point that many of us have been arguing is validated by researchers.

      “Participants who smoked marijuana had less difficulty with sleep and anxiety and were more likely to remain in treatment as compared to those who were not using marijuana, regardless of whether they were taking dronabinol or placebo.”

    4. Fireweed says:

      Is there nothing the Wonder Weed can’t do? If this is true then it’s even more important that the government stop spreading lies and misinformation and stop supporting/protecting the pharmaceutical’s distribution of opioid pain meds and addictive anti-anxiety meds. Why is this still criminalized when it’s becoming more and more evident that pot is not only not bad for you but good for you and for society as a whole.

      For 40 years,the government has spent billions of tax funds to deliberately suppress accurate information about marijuana, suppress research except to distribute false and biased information, ruin lives through unnecessary arrests and child removals, block effective medical treatment and instead has liberally supported pharmaceuticals distribution of addictive painkillers and anti-anxiety medications?

      When is NORML going to hold the government accountable through a lawsuit?

      When is NORML going to hold the government liable?

      [Editor’s Note: Been there, done that (NORML vs. DEA, 1972-1994). NORML (ACLU, DPA, etc…) are not going to be wasting time and resources litigating cannabis policy in the courts as almost all cannabis law reform in America is derived from legislation and initiatives as the courts, notably the federal courts, strongly defer to legislators’ will and intent when considering drug-policy related cases and challenges.

      Rather than rely on small non-profits to hold the government accountable via expensive and torturous legal cases, citizens voting for reform-minded policymakers are best bulwark for policy change.]

    5. Galileo Galilei says:

      I saw Gov. John Kasich interviewed by satirist Steven Colbert. His response to a question on marijuana conflated marijuana legalization with legalization of all drugs. Then he went on to talk about heroin and fentanyl.

      At one point Colbert interjected, ‘You do realize we’re not talking about fentanyl don’t you.’

      Judging from his blatant ignorance and willing self delusion, he is not competent to run the country.

      Cross him off the ‘might-vote-for-him’ list, NORML fans.

      [Editor’s note: Kasich is an old school drug warrior from his days in Congress in the late 80s/early 90s that unfortunately has not ‘evolved’ along with the changing views about cannabis in America.

      Watch him ill comport himself regarding Mr. Colbert’s line of questions here.]

    6. Miles says:

      Mr Rosenberg – The real joke is the so-called leaders of our country; you know, the kind that put you into your current office! I could never have imagined, as a child, just how completely incompetent American leaders could possibly be.

      Our Govt and you Mr. Rosenberg are the joke but I’m not laughing…

      It’s incredibly depressing to think about what the ideals were when our country was founded and what our govt has turned it into. It’s just pathetic!

    7. YearofAction says:

      @Fireweed

      Put this definition in front of reform-minded policy makers. It upholds the Necessary and Proper clause, deschedules cannabis, speaks to Big Cannabis, and could increase the chances of getting marijuana rescheduled.

      16. The term “marijuana” means all parts of the smoke produced by the combustion of the plant Cannabis sativa L. which is prohibited to be grown or sold by any publicly traded corporation or subsidiary company.

      This year is a good time to write them a letter.

    8. Julian says:

      Need Congress more evidence to pass a House version of the VA bill FY2015 and provide marijuana to veterans and stop the suicides? Soldiers are begging the VA to get off of opiates while the VA overdoses them with opiate cocktails during in-patient treatment. Whether this is your first time visiting this blog or you just wrote your Congressman Click on the Take Action link above and let your Congressman know right now that we’re not putting up with this treason from the unconstitutional CSAct!

    9. Mark I. says:

      Cannabis medications are prevalent globally with patients who wish to use natural medications and not consume the petrol-chemical based prescription medications killing and maiming millions world wide. Personal experience is overwhelming the prohibitionist propaganda with the truth.

    10. Solar Entitlement says:

      “Investigators reported that the administration of oral THC (dronabinol) during the detoxification process lowered the severity of subjects’ withdrawal symptoms compared to placebo, but that these effects did not persist over the entire course of treatment. By contrast, patients who consumed herbal cannabis during the outpatient treatment phase were more readily able to sleep, were less anxious, and were more likely to complete their treatment as compared to those subjects who did not”

      Not surprising at all,THC is just one cannabinoid among many others found in herbal cannabis along with all the terpenes that have a synergy with the cannabinoids and modulate them in all kinds of mysterious ways that only nature knows about,and man just discovering…

      Lets see a chemist create a sun ripened pear, from scratch in the laboratory that rivals the real deal in every way:cellulose,vitamins, minerals,antioxidants,flavonoids,that taste like the real thing too.

      Until then, real cannabis is the way to go, with terpenes intact.Cannabis is a Nutraceutical,that has been used for thousands of years,and has a broad range of applications.

      Not just to the highest bidder,in terms of Patent rights.

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