More than half of adults who used cannabis to manage their chronic pain reported that use of cannabis led them to decrease their use of prescription opioids, as well as other non-prescription painkillers, according to a new study published January 6 in the journal JAMA Network Open.
“Most persons who used cannabis as a treatment for chronic pain reported substituting cannabis in place of other pain medications including prescription opioids,” the authors wrote, noting the need for additional research into cannabis and pain management. “Our results suggest that state cannabis laws have enabled access to cannabis as an analgesic treatment despite knowledge gaps in use as a medical treatment for pain.”
Researchers with the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore surveyed 1,724 adults suffering from chronic pain conditions who resided in states that allow access to medical cannabis; 31% of respondents acknowledged having previously used marijuana to manage their pain, and 23% identified as current medical cannabis consumers.
In addition, 38.7% of survey respondents reported that their use of cannabis led to decreased use of physical therapy (5.9% reported it led to increased use), 19.1% said it led to decreased use of meditation (23.7% reported it led to increased use), and 26% said it led to decreased used of cognitive behavioral therapy (17.1% reported it led to increased use).
According to NORML, the findings are consistent with numerous other studies documenting that patients frequently use cannabis for pain mitigation, and that many patients either reduce or eliminate their consumption of opioids and other medications following the initiation of cannabis therapy.
“Cannabis has established efficacy in the treatment of multiple conditions, including chronic pain, and it possesses a safety profile that is either comparable or superior to other controlled substances,” NORML deputy director Paul Armentano said in a press release. “It is no wonder that those with legal access to it are substituting cannabis in lieu of other, potentially less effective and more harmful, substances.”
— Brian Beckley