Patients with Chronic Back Pain Reduce Their Opioid Use Following Initiation of Medical Cannabis Therapy

Philadelphia: Patients suffering from chronic back pain reduce their use of prescription opioids and report improvements in their condition following medical cannabis treatment, according to longitudinal data published in the journal Cureus

Investigators affiliated with Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia evaluated opioid consumption patterns in a cohort of 186 patients with chronic back pain during the six-months immediately prior to and immediately following their enrollment in the state’s medical cannabis access program. 

Consistent with prior studies, patients reduced their daily intake of opioids over the course of the trial. Over one-third of patients who were taking low daily doses of opioids at the onset of the study eliminated their opioid use by the trial’s end. Subjects’ opioid reductions were associated with improvements in pain scores and in patients’ daily functions. 

Authors concluded: “[P]atients with chronic musculoskeletal noncancer back pain who were certified for MC [medical cannabis] … filled a significantly reduced amount of opioid prescriptions post-MC compared to pre-MC. Upon MC certification, patients with lower levels of baseline opioid use have a high chance of stopping opioid use altogether. Patients show improved pain scores and daily function scores following MC certification. … Our study supports evidence that short-term opioid usage is diminished and potentially stopped within six months of MC certification.”

Full text of the study, “Medical cannabis use reduces opioid prescriptions in patients with chronic back pain,” appears in Cureus.Additional information is available from NORML’s fact sheet, ‘Relationship Between Marijuana and Opioids.’