Medical Cannabis Access Associated With Decreased Opioid Use In Chronic Pain Patients

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 22, 2016

    cannabis_pillsChronic pain patients with legal access to medicinal cannabis significantly decrease their use of opioids, according to data published online ahead of print in The Journal of Pain.

    Investigators at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor conducted a retrospective survey of 244 chronic pain patients. All of the subjects in the survey were qualified under Michigan law to consume medicinal cannabis and frequented an area dispensary to obtain it.

    Authors reported that respondents often substituted cannabis for opiates and that many rated marijuana to be more effective.

    “Among study participants, medical cannabis use was associated with a 64% decrease in opioid use, decreased number and side effects of medications, and an improved quality of life,” they concluded. “This study suggests that many chronic pain patients are essentially substituting medical cannabis for opioids and other medications for chronic pain treatment, and finding the benefit and side effect profile of cannabis to be greater than these other classes of medications.”

    About 40 people die daily from opioid overdoses, according to the US Centers for Disease Control.

    Clinical trial data published last month in The Clinical Journal of Pain reported that daily, long-term herbal cannabis treatment is associated with improved pain relief, sleep and quality of life outcomes, as well as reduced opioid use, in patients unresponsive to conventional analgesic therapies.

    The results of a 2015 Canadian trial similarly concluded that chronic pain patients who consumed herbal cannabis daily for one-year experienced reduced discomfort and increased quality of life compared to controls, and did not possess an increased risk of serious side effects.

    Separate data published in 2014 in The Journal of the American Medical Association determined that states with medical marijuana laws experience far fewer opiate-related deaths than do states that prohibit the plant. Investigators from the RAND Corporation reported similar findings in 2015, concluding, “States permitting medical marijuana dispensaries experience a relative decrease in both opioid addictions and opioid overdose deaths compared to states that do not.” Clinical data published in 2011 in the journal Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics previously reported that the administration of vaporized cannabis “safely augments the analgesic effect of opioids.”

    An abstract of the University of Michigan study, “Medical cannabis associated with decreased opiate medication use in retrospective cross-sectional survey of chronic pain patients,” appears online here.

    27 responses to “Medical Cannabis Access Associated With Decreased Opioid Use In Chronic Pain Patients”

    1. Julian says:

      Thank you, Paul, these reports need to be read outloud in front of Congress by veterans and nurse practitioners.

      One of the most powerful moments at the SouthWest Cannabis Conference and Expo last month in Dallas (which will be in Phoenix next year, I believe), was after hearing Dr. Sisley and N.P. Heather Manus Speak, two gulf war veterans spoke about using cannabis to recover from opiate addiction and P.T.S.D.
      I was still recovering from Dr.Sisley’s livestream report from Hawaii when she said
      “…the figures for suicide rates for veterans with P.T.S.D. are often being reported as opiate overdose for the cause of death, so adding suicides that are reported with average rates of opiate overdose daily in the U.S. we believe the numbers for veteran suicide rates to be closer to more than 50 per day…”

      I always get agreement that this has to end with Congressional staffers after I tell them these figures, followed by informing them that 30 years of research by Dr. Sue Sisley on veterans with P.T.S.D. reveal a %75 medical efficacy to treat P.T.S.D. and prevent suicides, and as Nurse Practitioner Heather Manus says, create P.T.S.Growth.
      Another speaker’s quote that shocked me came from former Chicago Bears QP Jim McMahon who described watching fellow NFL players overdose and commit suicide because the pills didnt allow them to heal, much less identify the cause of the pain, qhich are often fractured or twisted vertebrae restricting the flow of spinal fluid to the brain causing violent depressing death by CTE.
      We need Nurse Practioners certified with marijuana available to the homes of veterans and NFL players like yesterday!

      • Paul St Jean says:

        Please send this info to the all VA hospitals, please, maybe they will see why there are so many vets abusing opiates

      • Lisa trongo says:

        Please send me info for a medical marijuana license in california I am new at this so as much info as possible

    2. Galileo Galilei says:

      Apparently John Kaisch (R-OH) can’t understand the difference between cannabis and opiates.

    3. bong-i-dong says:

      All the pharmacy ends up in the water. If only politicians could be hold responsible for their actions.

      • Fireweed says:

        what’s scary is that that’s true. we not only have to worry about lead in the water but if there’s metabolized pharmaceuticals as well.

      • bobwv says:

        let the war crime trials begin.

        • Mark I. says:

          Amen. If medical professionals and their powerful administrators were not protected by increased insurance premiums for the deaths they are responsible for, their movement towards cannabis based medications would not be so viscus.

    4. Clifton says:

      The only problem with what is reported here is that the people who are running this country are heavily invested in the pharmaceutical industry and stand to loose a considerable amount of their investment if it is found that hemp is the wonder drug that most have been looking for to relieve their chronic pain. This is why they are so hell bent on keeping it illegal. I for one am for the use, and growing of the plant by those who are in need of a pain killer that works and there is no chance of overdosing by mistake. Opioid’s are killing far to many people and how do we know for sure that our leaders are not having the drugs laced with life shortening additives like I suspect the vaccines they are giving the children that has caused a massive increase in autism. There is no way to know if they are tampering with the drugs like they are our food sources.

    5. Mark Mitcham says:

      The problem is, our enemies don’t care which medication best alleviates chronic pain, because, broadly speaking, they don’t fully believe that chronic pain is a legitimate medical issue. They don’t buy it. They see it as weakness, and whining, if not outright fraud, and they feel contempt, not compassion.

      …At least for OTHER people! Just don’t take a peek into THEIR medicine cabinet.

      • Fireweed says:

        Oh they believe that chronic pain is legit, they just see it as a source of leverage. The medical system in this country is run by profiteers that, like the tobacco companies, want to keep repeat customers so they provide us with medications and surgeries that only partly solve the problem, or create new ones, so that the deck is stacked to keep you always in the system.

        • mexweed says:

          Worse yet, they INHERIT customers from the tobacco industry– from its $289Bil. yearly US economy cost estimate for “smoking-related diseases” the 2014 Surgeon General Report mentions $135Bil. for Medical Care (the rest for lost worktime).

          Substitute cannabis for opioid, bravo! but compared to 40 deaths a day from opioid overdose, consider 1200 DEATHS A DAY from LOM$A Long-term Monoxide $igarette Habit. Priorities, anyone?


          1. cannabis (or basil, marjoram etc.) for tobacco

          2. Vaping for smoking (no carbon monoxide)

          3. A Dosage-Regulatory single-vapetoke utensil (flexdrawtube one-hitter), 25 mg per serving, for 700-mg $igarette (or for that matter for the hot burning overdose monoxide 500 mg Joint).

          • mexweed says:

            Seeking clarifying function name for the device (#3 above): how about


            25-mg Microinhalant Vapetoast Utensil

        • Mark Mitcham says:

          Good point. That’s Capitalism for you! And that’s why I say “Fuck Capitalism.”

          Capitalism cannot be the basis for a society, because it is inherently parasitic, from a social perspective. It’s “fuction” is to bleed and feed on a healthy society, while giving back nothing, in fact, while attempting to further weaken a healthy society, so that it cannot protect itself from further expoitation.

          What a fraud.

          But sadly it’s the individual suckers in the society actually believe that shit. They see pain as weakness. These aren’t our enemies, these are victims of the Drug Wars. They’ve been played. The Consumers.

          So they take something “approved” for pain, because they’re “supposed to”, but it’s for their Masters, not for them. Spend more money! Right?

          But they would rather poison themselves on pharmaceuticals rather than take a toke of pot, because they’re completely suckered by their Corporate Masters. And these poor suckers are the ones, the individual people, who buy into the notion that chronic pain is a fraud; they carry their master’s water for them. If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for you.

    6. Fireweed says:

      the more that comes out about cannabis, the more this becomes a Human Rights issue. We are being done a disservice by our elected officials who seem to be representing big medica and big pharma more than the actual people that elected them. People are literally dying because of these laws.

    7. bobwv says:

      We need an app where the doctors and patient put censers on and the doctors can feel the pain. Without pot I could make mine beg me not to move.

    8. Todd says:

      From HighTimes article yesterday:

      “Dr. Karen Drexler, the VA’s deputy national mental health program director for addictive disorders, said the potential for dependency is yet another reason vets should wait for more research.”

      “There surely is not enough scientific evidence to say marijuana helps PTSD,” said Marcel Bonn-Miller, a University of Pennsylvania professor who is leading the Colorado-backed studies. “But we’ll get a heck of a lot closer to getting to know the answer in two to three years.”

    9. Mark I. says:

      The VA is complicit in the deaths of our service members because they are fixated on a one sized fits all healthcare mentality. Cannabis freedom and the end to prohibition will release a torrent of repressed initiatives, spiritual enlightenment, and educational priorities long extinguished by controlling bureaucracies pursuing self fulfilling , culturally degrading policies stealing rights and healthcare choices.

    10. Jim Puls says:

      The VA is not in the USA their District of Columbia. They say Weed ok but you don’t get your opiate pain pills or you get your opiates but don’t do weed. This is absurd. This MUST CHANGE or do I end it all by OD by opiates. 101st Airborne Air Assault Combat Vietnam 70-71. Also on oxygen for COPD.

      • Revolutions child says:

        Right Jim the quicker a vet dies the quicker the books get closed on their responsibility by the va or medical establishment. Then that institution can go on more carefree riding on the downward spiral of the quality of care it provides. This dignity for life or quality of life is traded for administrative consideration. Masked greed. Follow the money. Greed kills. Our voices count and past time to collectively assert our values. End oppression.
        3 cor 6th33 us army. Peace