Camden, NJ: The adjunctive use of medical cannabis is associated with opioid-sparing effects and overall improvements in symptom management in patients suffering from cancer pain, according to data published in the Journal of Palliative Medicine.
A team of researchers affiliated with the Cooper University Teaching Hospital in Camden, New Jersey assessed trends in opioid consumption and symptom control in patients who did and did not consume medical cannabis.
They reported that those in the medical cannabis group were more likely to report improvements in mood and experience a delay in the dose escalation of their use of opioids. Medical cannabis patients reported pain relief at a level that was analogous to those who did not use the substance.
Investigators concluded: "Our study found that the addition of MMJ (medical marijuana) to patients’ palliative care regimen withstood the development of tolerance and reduced the rate of opioid use, over a significantly longer follow-up period than patients solely utilizing opioids. … MMJ(+) improved oncology patients’ ESAS scores [a measurement of pain, nausea, and anxiety) despite opioid dose reductions and should be considered a viable adjuvant therapy for palliative management."
The study’s findings are consistent with those of numerous other papers reporting that the initiation of medical cannabis therapy influences patients’ opioid consumption patterns.
Full text of the study, "The efficacy of medical marijuana in the treatment of cancer-related pain," appears in the Journal of Palliative Medicine. Additional information on the relationship between cannabis and opioids is available in the NORML fact-sheet.