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Study: Pain Patients Report Cannabis Augments Efficacy Of Opiate-Based Medications

Thursday, 08 January 2015

Study: Pain Patients Report Cannabis Augments Efficacy Of Opiate-Based Medications

Sydney, Australia: Cannabis is often administered as an analgesic agent by chronic pain patients, many of whom report that it augments the pain-relieving properties of opiods, according to data published online ahead of print in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

An international team of investigators from Australia and England assessed the use of cannabis among a cohort of 1514 Australians who had been prescribed pharmaceutical opioids for chronic non-cancer pain.

Researchers reported that one in six (16 percent) of the patients surveyed acknowledged having used cannabis for pain relief. An additional 25 percent of respondents admitted that they would be willing to use cannabis for pain relief, but that they lacked access to the plant.

Among those using cannabis for pain, the average pain relief they reported they obtained from using cannabis adjunctively with their prescription medicines was 70 percent (where 100% meant complete pain relief). In contrast, the average reported pain relief they reported receiving from their prescription pain medications alone was only 50 percent.

"[The] findings here suggest that from a service user perspective, there is a significant sub-population of people living with CNCP (chronic non-cancer pain) who see cannabis as a helpful adjunct to pain relief," authors concluded. "Cannabis use for pain relief purposes appears common among people living with chronic non-cancer pain, and users report greater pain relief in combination with opioids than when opioids are used alone."

The Australian survey findings are similar to those reported in a 2011 clinical trial documenting that cannabis administration significantly augments the analgesic effects of opiates in patients with chronic pain.

Separate data published last year indicates that greater acceptance of cannabis as an analgesic agent may result in fewer opiate-related overdose deaths. Writing in JAMA Internal Medicine, investigators reported that the enactment of statewide medicinal marijuana laws is associated with year-to-year declines in opioid overdose mortality rates. Specifically, overdose deaths from opioids decreased by an average of 20 percent one year post-implementation, 25 percent by two years, and up to 33 percent by years five and six.

For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org. Full text of the study, "Experience of adjunctive cannabis use for chronic non-cancer pain: Findings from the Pain and Opioids IN Treatment (POINT) study," appears online in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.