Vancouver, Canada: Patients suffering from persistent pain conditions who frequently use cannabis are far less likely to use non-prescription opioids, according to longitudinal data published in the journal PLOS One.
A team of investigators from Canada and the United States assessed drug use trends in chronic pain patients over a multi-year period (June 1, 2014 to December 1, 2017).
Authors reported "an independent negative association between frequent cannabis use and frequent illicit opioid use." Specifically, subjects who consumed cannabis daily "had about 50 percent lower odds of using illicit opioids every day [as] compared to cannabis non-users."
Investigators did not identify a similarly significant association between occasional cannabis use and daily non-prescription opioid use.
They concluded, "These findings provide longitudinal observational evidence that cannabis may serve as an adjunct to or substitute for illicit opioid use among PWUD (people who use drugs) with chronic pain."
The findings are consistent with those of prior studies – such as those here, here, and here – reporting that pain patients reduce their use of opioids following the initiation of medical cannabis therapy.
In late November, federal officials affirmed that no funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration could be directed toward programs that propose the use of medical cannabis for those suffering from opioid dependence issues.
Full text of the study, "Frequency of cannabis and illicit opioid use among people who use drugs and report chronic pain: A longitudinal analysis," appears in PLOS One. Additional information is available from the NORML fact-sheet, ‘Relationship Between Marijuana and Opioids.’