Clinical Trial: Oral THC Administration Associated with Opioid-Sparing Effects

Trauma patients administered oral THC consume fewer opioids than do similarly matched controls, according to clinical trial data published in the journal Trauma Surgery & Acute Care.

Investigators affiliated with the Saint Anthony Hospital and Medical Campus in Colorado assessed the impact of the off-label use of dronabinol (FDA-approved synthetic oral THC) on opioid consumption patterns in trauma patients with acute pain. Sixty-six patients participated in the study. Half of the participants received dronabinol and the other half did not.

Authors reported that patients administered oral THC experienced a “nine-fold greater reduction in opioid consumption” compared to controls. These opioid-sparing effects were most pronounced among participants who had prior experience with cannabis.

They concluded: “The addition of dronabinol resulted in reduced opioid consumption, … suggesting a beneficial opioid-sparing effect of dronabinol in acutely painful conditions. … Because our study showed that the opioid-sparing effect of dronabinol may be greatest in patients who use marijuana, use of dronabinol adjunctively may benefit nearly half of [Colorado’s] population.”

The study’s findings are consistent with those of numerous other papers reporting that patients typically mitigate their use of opioids following the initiation of cannabis/cannabinoid therapy.

An abstract of the study, “Matched pilot study examining cannabis-based dronabinol for acute pain following traumatic injury,” is online here. Additional information on the relationship between cannabis and opioids is available in the NORML fact-sheet here.