Cannabis Access Consistently Linked With Lower Opioid Use: Studies

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 1, 2018

    Patients routinely reduce or eliminate their use of prescription opiates following the use of medical cannabis; two recently published studies reaffirm this relationship.

    In the first study, published by the Minnesota Department of Health, investigators assessed the prescription drug use patterns of 2,245 intractable pain patients participating in the state’s medical cannabis access program. Among those patients known to be taking opiates for pain upon enrollment in the program, 63 percent “were able to reduce or eliminate opioid usage after six months.” The findings are similar to those of registered patients in other states’ medical cannabis programs, including Illinois, Michigan, and New Mexico, among others.

    In the second study, Israeli researchers assessed the safety and efficacy of cannabis in a cohort of over 1,200 cancer patients over a period of six months. Ninety-six percent of patients “reported an improvement in their condition.” Nearly half of respondents reported either decreasing or eliminating their use of opioids during the treatment period.

    A third recently published clinical trial provides insight into explaining this relationship. Investigators from the United States and Australia and assessed the efficacy of inhaled cannabis and sub-therapeutic doses of oxycodone on experimentally-induced pain in a double-blind, placebo-controlled model. Researchers assessed subjects’ pain tolerance after receiving both substances separately or in concert with one another. While neither the administration of cannabis nor oxycodone alone significantly mitigated subjects’ pain, the combined administration of both drugs did so effectively.

    Authors determined, “Both active cannabis and a low dose of oxycodone (2.5 mg) were sub-therapeutic, failing to elicit analgesia on their own; however, when administered together, pain responses … were significantly reduced, pointing to the opioid-sparing effects of cannabis.” They concluded, “Smoked cannabis combined with an ineffective analgesic dose of oxycodone produced analgesia comparable to an effective opioid analgesic dose without significantly increasing cannabis’s abuse liability.”

    The new studies add to the growing body of research finding that cannabis access is associated with reduced rates of opioid use and abuse, opioid-related hospitalizations, opioid-related traffic fatalities, opioid-related drug treatment admissions, and opioid-related overdose deaths.

    Additional information regarding the association between cannabis and opioids is available from NORML’s fact-sheet here.

    19 responses to “Cannabis Access Consistently Linked With Lower Opioid Use: Studies”

    1. Mark Mitcham says:

      So, cannabis use mitigates opiate use? Wonderful news!

      This article contains more powerful evidence, which reasonable and compassionate people will find to be persuasive data in support of marijuana legalization. And, for those of us who are medical marijuana patients, the medical efficacy of cannabis is a fact of life, and studies like these will likely come as no great surprise.

      But what of The Willful Ignorant?

      Mainstream American culture is still an alcoholic culture; it sets our social reference frames from birth. It is difficult to see past that, for any of us. Like a baby sucking on a baby bottle full of Pepsi, we are given poor reference points, from birth, for what is normal and healthy behavior.

      As adults entering in this alcoholic society, we are expected to make the transition from soft drinks to hard drinks. Those who can’t, or won’t, are deemed to have “a drug and alcohol problem.”

      This terminology itself — the binary distinction between soft drinks and hard drinks — is itself evidence of our alcoholic culture, for the difference between the two is, simply, alcohol.

      The phrase “drugs and alcohol” is another example of linguistic symptoms of our alcoholic culture, because it implies a distinction which does not exist; to wit, alcohol is a drug.

      Those who have trouble with the notion of treating one drug (opiates) with another (cannabis) are victims of their own alcoholic culture.

      But The Willful Ignorant will never be persuaded by evidence.

      We can talk ourselves blue in the face, and they couldn’t care less. These folks cannot be persuaded. They must be defeated.

      Vote Democratic! Register now!

    2. DAVID EASON says:

      DAVE E.

        • I am says:

          The Donald Trump white house petition site only shows glamorized Donald Trump combating opiods – The Hero– while no links to petitions. could be a conservative thing-NO DRUGS PERIOD, because opiods are considered the same as marijuana- Donald Trump the clown.

    3. Julian says:

      Back in 2014, before the TwitterTrail of Orange, Anslingeresque Lies began his campaign to blame Mexicans on violence fabricated by our own failed drug policies, the Journal of the American Medical Association was about to publish one of the most important studies in American medical history:


      And so it was revealed: whole plant cannabis could treat, reduce and wean Americans from predatory, synthetic opioid addiction and suicide.

      Today, Senator Kristen Gillibrand has rejected PAC money for her campaign, publically condemning the pharmaceutical industry for attacking legal marijuana policies.

      Democratic candidate Beto Orourke refused PAC money from the get go in his campaign and has been denouncing the drug war on all fronts to oust the synthetic predator-in-chief, Republican Ted Cruz.

      We are playing a game of plants v zombies from west coast to the east and remarkably, state by state, the plants are winning. And it is thanks to people like NORML Executive Director Paul Armentano who links us to the longitudinal studies that we must share with our state legislators and federal Congress using the ACT link on this webpage.
      The CSAct and all it’s synthetic parasites have their days numbered; turns out marijuana is an antiseptic and cures us from synthetics and parasites too!

        • Julian says:

          Are you or are you not supportive of legally smoked (combusted) whole plant cannabis?

          • YearofAction says:

            You put the question correctly. I am in favor of state and local restrictions on legally smoked cannabis with federal restoration of the Ninth and Tenth Amendment liberty rights of real people with respect to the versatile cannabis plant. This careful reform of the federal definition of the Schedule 1 controlled substance which is equivocally identified as marijuana, is the first step to getting there:

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

            When this reformed definition is the law, our “retained” and “reserved” liberty rights to cannabis will be restored. The remaining issue is to reschedule it (the less onerous the schedule, the better), or de-schedule it, while indicating that cannabis smoke is not for gunplay, nor for children.

            • Dain Bramage says:

              Exhausting to read, but that sounds like a “no.”
              Bummer. Schedule 2 kind of guy, eh?

          • Julian says:

            May your prohibitive endeavours go up in smoke with the rest of the synthetic, predatory zombies from big pharma. You can put that in your pipe and smoke it.

      • Dain Bramage says:

        I think it is fair to say that, in general, the Democratic Party supports marijuana legalization, while the Republican Party opposes legalization.

        What’s funny is how the Democrats are scared to admit their support openly, and Republicans are scared to admit their opposition openly!

        Still… That gives the Democrats the edge, and the win. Punish Trump and the GOP! Vote Democratic!

        • Julian says:

          Absolutely. Dems are far more supportive of marijuana reform policies than Republicans… most especially Democrats like Kristen Gillibrand and Beto Orourke who refuse PAC (Pharmacuetical Assassin Currency) money.
          We are still watching Democratic prohibitionist campaigns like Joe Kennedy in Mass. and Debbie Washmoney Shultz in Miami-Dade who, God willing, will lose to PAC money-refusing Tim Canova. And if Republican Jason Isaac wins District 21 after Lamar Smith it will be a great advantage for marijuana reformers, even if Democrat Joseph Kopser doesn’t win the primary, who is the best primary option in a row of Democratic marijuana reformers. Dems are FAR in the majority when it comes to ending prohibition. All we have to do is check the scorecard;

    4. Todd says:

      “Israeli researchers assessed the safety and efficacy of cannabis in a cohort of over 1,200 cancer patients over a period of six months…Nearly half of respondents reported either decreasing or eliminating their use of opioids during the treatment period.” – NORML on Tikun Olam clinics

      “Every court to consider the specific, carefully framed right at issue here has held that there is no substantive due process right to use medical marijuana.” – Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein

      “If people let government decide which foods they eat and medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.” – Thomas Jefferson

      “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right …to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor” – Amendment 6 of the Bill of Rights

    5. This is great information to keep getting out there. Opioids are a constant struggle for many people in this country. Regardless of how you became addicted in the first place, it was because you wanted strong pain relief in your life from either physical or mental issues. Cannabis is a proven to help people quit opioids and anything that we can provide to help people with this struggle is so important.

    6. I am says:

      The news shouldn’t be that much of a surprise opiods are not that attractive, after a drug prescription of opiods usually you feel anxiety and troubles associated with pain or other problems like media makers that control your life, and on opiods like being a piss poor coward you usually agree with the dominating factor — media regardless of the poor high of the drug itself.
      Too many youths being too greatly assisted in using drugs is our problem-
      Get back to the seventies and eighties and limit drug use to serious adults.

    7. Sean says:

      In the US of Trump, the facts just don’t matter, especially when they can come up with “alternative” facts.

    8. Paula says:

      I’m 72 yrs old and use Vicodin for rheumatoid arthritis as well as experimenting with marijuana use both THC and just CBD. So far I’m more confused then ever. My goal is to stop the Vicodin or lower the dosage. The fact remains the Vicodin is so much cheaper then purchasing enough marijuana for the month. Can anyone recommend a certain formula best to try with the Vicodin or how long do you ween yourself off the Vicodin before relying on just the marijuana? It’s all so confusing for us old folks.

    9. It is not easy whatsoever to figure out what one should do about marijuana and opioid issues.

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