Arthritis? Back pain? Scientists find medical pot may help you avoid opioid painkillers

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In two studies from Rothman Orthopaedic Institute in Philadelphia, scientists found medical marijuana could be a viable alternative to opioid painkillers for people dealing with arthritis or chronic back pain.

They found broadly a significant reduction in opioid use when they started using medical cannabis.

They saw a decrease in approximately 40% of opioid use after starting medical cannabis, with 37% to 38% of patients completely discontinuing opioid use altogether.

Many patients prescribed opioids for their chronic pain wound up taking fewer painkillers—or stopping them altogether—after doctors certified them for medical cannabis.

If validated, these results indicate that medical marijuana could be a potential means of combating America’s opioid epidemic, which has been driven in part by prescription painkillers.

In the studies, Ilyas and his colleagues recruited 186 patients with chronic back pain and 40 patients with chronic arthritis pain.

Between February 2018 and July 2019, doctors certified the patients to purchase medical marijuana in the state of Pennsylvania.

The patients were allowed to use pot as they chose—some vaped or smoked, while others used edibles.

Doctors then tracked the patients’ opioid painkiller use for six months using a state-run prescription drug monitoring database, and using an opioid measurement called morphine milligram equivalents (MME):

Average daily opioid prescriptions for arthritis patients declined during the study period, falling from 18.2 to 9.8 MME.

Back pain patients also experience a reduction in their average daily opioid prescriptions, from 15.1 to 11 MME.

About 37% of arthritis patients and 38% of back pain patients quit opioid painkillers altogether.

Patients in both groups experienced a reduction in their pain symptoms and an improvement in their physical health.

Medical cannabis also doesn’t appear to carry the same risk of addiction as opioid painkillers.

The team says these results provide fresh evidence for the potential to treat pain with medical pot.

If you care about pain, please read studies about why people with red hair respond differently to pain than others, and what you need to know about chest pain.

For more information about pain, please see recent studies about how to manage your back pain, and results showing medical cannabis could help reduce arthritis pain and back pain.

The two studies were conducted by Dr. Asif Ilyas et al and presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

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