Report: Opioid Use Declines Among Pain Patients Enrolled In State's Medical Cannabis Program

Thursday, 08 March 2018

Opioid Use Declines - Medical Cannabis

St. Paul, MN: Patients with intractable pain reduce their use of prescription opioids following cannabis therapy, according to data compiled by the Minnesota Department of Health.

Investigators assessed the prescription drug use patterns of 2,245 intractable pain patients participating in the state's medical cannabis access program. Among those patients known to be taking opiates for pain upon enrollment in the program, 63 percent "were able to reduce or eliminate their opioid use after six months."

The report's findings are similar to those of enrollees in other statewide cannabis access programs. For example, Michigan chronic pain patients experienced "a 64 percent decrease in opioid use, decreased number and side effects of medications, and an improved quality of life," following admission into the program. A 2017 assessment of medical cannabis patients in Illinois revealed that participants in the state-run program frequently reported using marijuana "as an alternative to other medications - most commonly opioids, but also anticonvulsants, anti-inflammatories, and over-the-counter analgesics." In New Mexico, compared to non-users, medical cannabis enrollees "were more likely either to reduce daily opioid prescription dosages between the beginning and end of the sample period (83.8 percent versus 44.8 percent) or to cease filling opioid prescriptions altogether (40.5 percent versus 3.4 percent)."

For more information, contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org. Full text of the report, "Intractable Pain Patients in the Minnesota Medical Cannabis Program: Experience of Enrollees During the First Five Months," is online.