Medical cannabis for chronic pain may help people reduce opioid use

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In a study from New York State and CUNY, scientists found that receiving medical cannabis for thirty days or more may help patients on long-term opioid treatment to lower their dose over time.

They found an association between receiving medical cannabis for chronic pain for a longer duration and a reduction in prescription opioid dosages among patients on long-term opioid therapy.

Patients who were on higher dosages of prescription opioids in the beginning when they started receiving medical cannabis experienced larger reductions in opioid dosages.

These findings contribute robust evidence for doctors regarding the potential clinical benefits of medical cannabis in reducing the opioid burden for long-term opioid therapy patients, and possibly reducing their risk for use of illicit substances and overdose.

In the study, the team used a combination of two large state databases to analyze data from eight thousand adult New Yorkers during 2017-2019.

They evaluated the prescription opioid dosages of participants during the 12 months prior to receipt of medical cannabis and up to eight months later.

They found in patients with the lowest morphine milligram equivalent (MME) (less than 50 MME), the average daily MME at the end of the follow-up period for patients with longer medical cannabis duration was reduced by 48% from baseline.

In contrast, there was a 4% reduction from baseline for patients with shorter medical cannabis duration.

The team says this study found meaningful reductions among patients receiving medical cannabis for a longer duration.

Patients’ daily opioid dosages were reduced by 47%-51% of the baseline dosages after eight months. In contrast, patients receiving medical cannabis for a shorter duration reduced their initial dosages by just 4%-14%.

These findings have important implications for clinicians and policymakers. They provide evidence for another tool to be used in response to the opioid epidemic.

The study suggests a more humane option for achieving lower prescription dosages and potentially reducing those risks.

Equitable implementation of these findings will require addressing disparities in both access to medical cannabis due to high cost and the high rate of patients receiving long-term opioid therapy in Medicaid and other programs.

If you care about pain, please read studies about why cholesterol-lowering drug statins can cause muscle pain, and new device to treat pain without using drugs.

For more information about pain, please see recent studies that common painkillers may worsen arthritis inflammation, and results showing common painkiller ibuprofen may strongly influence your liver.

The study was conducted by Dr. Trang Nguyen et al and published in JAMA Network Open.

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