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. linda says:

      Our son has recently been prescribed medical Marijuana in CA. He was in a constuction accident over 8 yrs. ago which resulted in several surgeries. Approximately four months ago, he again had surgery on his lower back to stabilize the vertebrae. Over the years he was given all types of pain pills, narcotics and patches. He was most recently prescribed Fentanyl Patches. He has been addicted to strong pain meds for years. This has also caused other medical problems. He went to California and was seen by a physician who prescribed meddical marijuana for the chronic pain that he experiences everyday. He was able to stop taking all prescribed medications and only use medical marijuana. He was stopped by Oklahoma law enforcement and was arrested for possession and intent to sell. My son found something less addictive and more helpful for the pain, but now may result in jail

    2. Marc says:

      I am a chronic pain patient who takes 120mg of opioids a day and I live in a state where medical marijuana is illegal. I pray that this ruling will help people who live in states where medical marijuana is legal to have a better quality of life. I may have to move rather than be under the oppression of politicians in Richmond Virginia who think they know what is best for pain patients. I do wish someone they loved had these problems so they could learn first hand how they are impacting people. They would be surprised how much pain and misery they force people to live with.

    3. Vicky says:

      God gave us cannabis to use. Yes these pharmaceutical companies are making money as well as studying and researching. It boils down to the clowns who WE put in office. As a Nurse who fought for people who suffered all noct and got hung up on all night and cursed out I am now one in chronic pain!! Until people demand their rights it’s not gonna change. People who have been denied pain med because of regulation and are now dead can’t complain BUT the families of these people should step up!! Write your legislators constantly and complain. Most people are not aware of what goes on until it happens to THEIR family!! True cannabis is making a lot of people a lot of money but u can’t stop a train and it’s coming, it will be legal eventually!!
      I don’t care if anyone believes my pain or not. My provider is great and he actually can see the muscles knot up the size of a small fist and feel them. After years of lifting my back is ruined and know have fibromyalgia. You know what? They throw their out Nurses out that are injured and couldn’t care less. There will be a day of accountability for all of us!! Woe to u that deny an ease of suffering!! Education to voters is essential!! Feet n the ground is what we need!!

    4. Aaron Keefe says:

      Starting a vlog about becoming a pot farmer from the ground up. Please and thanks for viewing.

    5. Carol says:

      I suffer from chronic pain. I wake up in pain and go to bed in pain. I have osteo and rheumatoid arthritis. Every part of my body aches. I’ve have dozens of epidurals on my neck and lower spine, have had surgery on both hands, back surgery, knee replacements, torn rotator, and go to PT and acupuncture. Why is fibromyalgia or chronic pain not considered an acceptable ailment to receive medicinal marijuana? I’ve overused Percocet, and other opioids, including alcohol to kill my pain.
      Dr. Anzalone, NJ was my second attempt to get approved for marijuana. I was approved in November 2015. What a relief! I stopped percription drugs, I stopped drinking, and I could sleep! Unfortunately, he was evicted from his offices in April and I didn’t find out until I went to the dispensary to buy some, only to find my prescription had lapsed and later that the doctor was nowhere to be found! I am currently looking for another doctor to fax my script to the dispensary so I can continue my treatment. I already have my card, issued by the state. One doctor told me that I could not get it “just for pain.” I find it crazy that I feel better smoking weed than I did drugging and drinking myself into oblivion. The laws HAVE TO CHANGE! I spoke to one of my doctors this evening, and he even thinks I should get it based on my health history. He even said he would be willing to write scripts for his own patients if he was approved. I told him he should become an advocate for chronic pain patients. Two months ago, one of my surgeons told me he’d rather I spoke marijuana than drink!!! So, who are the people making these requirements for those who qualify? THE LAWS AND REGULATIONS NEED TO BE ADJUSTED!!!

    6. Rachel says:

      Thank you for sharing this research. The fact that many saw their quality of life increase says a lot to me, considering they are taking opioids to do the same thing. Curious to see what the future holds for medical cannabis research!

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