Survey: Pain Patients Often Report Substituting Cannabis for Opioids

San Francisco, CA: Some four in ten adults who report using both marijuana and opioids within the past year acknowledge either decreasing or ceasing their consumption of opioids as a result of substituting cannabis, according to an analysis of survey data published in the journal PLOS One.

A team of investigators affiliated with the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center assessed the prevalence of self-reported cannabis substitution in a nationally representative sample of pain patients.

Among those who acknowledged recent use (within the past 12 months) of cannabis and opioids, 41 percent "reported a decrease or cessation of opioid use due to marijuana use." Respondents’ most commonly reported reasons for substitution were "better pain management (36 percent) and fewer side effects (32 percent) and withdrawal symptoms (26 percent)." Respondents’ decision to engage in cannabis substitution was not influenced by either the legal status of cannabis in their state or by particular socio-demographics.

"In a nationally representative survey of US adults, substitution of marijuana for opioids, which included a substantial degree of opioid discontinuation (~20 percent), was common.," authors concluded. "Our findings are consistent with prior surveys of American and Canadian marijuana users in which substitution of marijuana for opioids was prevalent due to better symptom management and fewer adverse and withdrawal effects."

Full text of the study, "Substitution of marijuana for opioids in a national survey of US adults," appears in PLOS One. Additional information is available from the NORML fact-sheet, ‘Relationship Between Marijuana and Opioids.’