Study: Cannabis Use Associated with Opioid-Sparing Effects on Pain Patients

Tucson, AZ: The adjunctive use of cannabis is associated with a reduction in opioid use and emergency room visits among patients with non-cancer pain, according to the findings of a literature review published in the journal Systemic Reviews.

A team of investigators affiliated with the University of Arizona, Mel and Enid Zuckerman School of Public Health, analyzed data from nine studies involving 7,222 participants with non-cancer chronic pain.

Authors identified “a much higher reduction in opioid dosage, reduced emergency room visits, and hospital admissions for chronic non-cancer pain by MC [medical cannabis] users, compared to people with no additional use of MC. There was 64 to 75 percent reduction in opioid dosage for MC users and complete stoppage of opioid use for chronic non-cancer pain by 32 to 59 percent of MC users, when compared to patients without additional use of MC.”

The findings are consistent with those of several prior studies concluding that pain patients enrolled in state-sponsored medical cannabis access programs typically reduce or eliminate their opioid use over time.

Authors concluded, “Given the current opioid epidemic in the USA and medical cannabis’s recognized analgesic properties, MC could serve as a viable option to achieve opioid dosage reduction in managing non-cancer chronic pain.”

Full text of the study, “Medical cannabis for the reduction of opioid dosage in the treatment of non-cancer chronic pain: A systematic review,” appears in Systematic Reviews. Additional information is available from the NORML Fact Sheet, “Relationship Between Marijuana and Opioids.”