Study: Medical Marijuana Treatment Associated with Significant Declines in the Use of Opioids at Six Months

Victoria, Canada: The use of medical cannabis by qualified patients over a six-month period is associated with significant decreases in the use of prescription opioids and other medications, according to data published in the journal Pain Medicine.

Investigators with the University of Victoria in Vancouver assessed prescription drug use patterns over a six-month period in a cohort of 1,145 authorized medical cannabis patients.

Researchers reported that 28 percent of subjects acknowledged using opioid medications at the initiation of the trial. This fell to 11 percent six months later. Participants’ mean opioid dosage fell by 78 percent over the trial period – a finding consistent with prior studies.

Researchers also reported declines in subjects’ use of prescription anti-depressants, benzodiazepines, and anti-seizure medications. Prior studies have similarly reported declines in patients use of benzodiazepines and other prescription medications following the initiation of medical cannabis.

Study subjects also reported improvements in their overall quality of life, including changes in their physical and psychological health, over the course of the trial.

Authors concluded, “The high rate of cannabis use for chronic pain and the subsequent reductions in opioid use suggest that cannabis may play a harm reduction role in the opioid overdose crisis, potentially improving the quality of life of patients and overall public health.”

Full text of the study, “Cannabis significantly reduces the use of prescription opioids and improves quality of life in authorized patients: Results of a large prospective study,” appears in Pain Medicine. Additional information is available from the NORML fact sheet, “Relationship Between Marijuana and Opioids.”