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Clinical Trial: Oral THC Administration Associated with Opioid-Sparing Effects

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 25, 2020

    Trauma patients administered oral THC consume fewer opioids than do similarly matched controls, according to clinical trial data published in the journal Trauma Surgery & Acute Care.

    Investigators affiliated with the Saint Anthony Hospital and Medical Campus in Colorado assessed the impact of the off-label use of dronabinol (FDA-approved synthetic oral THC) on opioid consumption patterns in trauma patients with acute pain. Sixty-six patients participated in the study. Half of the participants received dronabinol and the other half did not.

    Authors reported that patients administered oral THC experienced a “nine-fold greater reduction in opioid consumption” compared to controls. These opioid-sparing effects were most pronounced among participants who had prior experience with cannabis.

    They concluded: “The addition of dronabinol resulted in reduced opioid consumption, … suggesting a beneficial opioid-sparing effect of dronabinol in acutely painful conditions. … Because our study showed that the opioid-sparing effect of dronabinol may be greatest in patients who use marijuana, use of dronabinol adjunctively may benefit nearly half of [Colorado’s] population.”

    The study’s findings are consistent with those of numerous other papers reporting that patients typically mitigate their use of opioids following the initiation of cannabis/cannabinoid therapy.

    An abstract of the study, “Matched pilot study examining cannabis-based dronabinol for acute pain following traumatic injury,” is online here. Additional information on the relationship between cannabis and opioids is available in the NORML fact-sheet here.

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