Survey: Most Patients Report Opioid-Sparing Effects Following Cannabis Initiation

Tallahassee, FL: The majority of patients registered with the state of Florida to access medical cannabis products report reducing their consumption of prescription opioids, according to data published in the journal Substance Use & Misuse.

Investigators affiliated with Florida State University’s College of Medicine assessed health functioning before and after cannabis initiation in a cohort of over 2,100 authorized medical marijuana consumers. Consistent with dozens of prior studies, researchers reported that “the majority of participants (79 percent) reported either cessation or reduction in pain medication use following [their] initiation of medical cannabis.” Nearly 12 percent of participants also reported improvements in physical mobility.

The majority of patients surveyed acknowledged consuming cannabis daily and most had little or no past history of cannabis use prior to registering in the state’s medical cannabis access program

Authors concluded: “The majority of Florida medical cannabis users surveyed described medical cannabis as helpful and important to their overall quality of life. Notably, a large percentage of patients reported improvements in the areas of physical functioning, social functioning, and bodily pain after beginning medical cannabis. We also found a substantial number of patients reduced the amount of OBPM [opioid based pain medication] used after gaining access to legalized medical cannabis, with some patients specifically describing improved functioning in daily life as a result. … These data add to the growing body of literature suggesting that medical cannabis use may be associated with reductions in opioid (and other) prescription medication use without reducing quality of life or worsening health outcomes.”

A prior analysis of Florida patients, published last year by researchers affiliated with Florida Gulf Coast University, similarly reported that 65 percent of respondents had either reduced or eliminated their use of at least one prescription or over-the-counter medication following their initiation of medical cannabis. 

Full text of the survey, “Medical cannabis patients report improvements in health functioning and reductions in opiate use,” appears in Substance Use & Misuse. Additional information on the opioid-sparing effects of cannabis is available from NORML’s fact sheet, ‘Relationship Between Marijuana and Opioids.’