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Study: Patients Frequently Substitute Medical Cannabis In Place Of Other Controlled Substances

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Patients Frequently Substitute Medical Cannabis

Victoria, Canada: Canadian patients who consume medical cannabis products in compliance with federal law typically reduce or eliminate their use of alcohol, tobacco, and pharmaceutical drugs, according to data published in the Harm Reduction Journal.

A team of investigators from Canada and the United States surveyed over 2,000 federally registered medical cannabis patients with regard to their use of cannabis and other substances.

Authors reported, "The most commonly cited substitution was for prescription drugs (69 percent), followed by alcohol (45 percent), tobacco (31 percent), and illicit substances (27 percent)." Of those reporting substituting cannabis for conventional medications, 35 percent said that they used cannabis in place of opioids. Of these, 59 percent said that they ultimately ceased their use of opiates.

Investigators further reported: "Of the 515 respondents who substituted cannabis for alcohol, 31 percent suggested they stopped using it completely and 37 percent reported reducing [their consumption] by at least 75 percent. ... Of the 406 participants who substituted cannabis for tobacco, 51 say they stopped using it completely and 14 percent reported reducing their use by 75 percent."

They concluded, "The findings ... add to a growing body of academic research suggesting that increased regulated access to medical and recreational cannabis can result in a reduction in the use of and subsequent harms associated with opioids, alcohol, tobacco, and other substances."

Prior studies have similarly reported an association between medical cannabis access and reduced prescription drug spending, as well as decreased levels of alcohol and tobacco consumption.

For more information, contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at (202) 483-5500. Full text of the study, "Medical cannabis patterns of use and substitution for opioids & other pharmaceutical drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and illicit substances: results from a cross-sectional survey of authorized patients," appears in the Harm Reduction Journal.