Opioid addiction continues to quietly but steadily cripple millions of people seeking relief from chronic pain. Between 1999 and 2015, opioid-related deaths have nearly quadrupled. And as of 2015, almost 40% of adults are using opioids.
A study by researchers at Philadelphia’s Rothman Orthopaedic Institute and Thomas Jefferson University have found medical cannabis could be an effective alternative to opioids in treating chronic pain from Osteoarthritis. Between 2007 to 2014, opioid use for treating Osteoarthritis increased by nearly 4%. The report states that opioids have shown “statistically significant but small improvements in treating chronic pain at the cost of dose-dependent risks of substance abuse disorders, addiction, overdose, and death.”
Forty OA patients suffering from chronic pain who were certified to use medical marijuana saw their average morphine milligram equivalents prescribed per day decrease from 18.2 to 9.8. Almost 38% of the patients dropped to zero milligrams. Researchers monitored the Global Health and pain scores at baseline, three, and six months post cannabis certification.
At three and six months, pain scores “decreased significantly,” and the report asserted that medical marijuana “reduces opioid prescription for patients with chronic OA pain and improves pain and quality of life.”
Additionally, patients recovering from opioid addiction have cited the benefits of cannabis for various withdrawal symptoms. Marijuana has effectively treated anxiety, insomnia, nausea, and chronic pain.
According to a recent study, researchers found that subjects who used cannabis daily were less likely to experience opioid cravings than those who used cannabis only occasionally. A New Mexico doctor concluded that marijuana helped 25% of her patients overcome opioids.
According to the results of an anonymous online survey of medical cannabis patients in California by the Harm Reduction Journal 80% of those surveyed found that cannabis was more effective than opioids for pain. For 92% of the patients, the side effects of cannabis were more tolerable than opioids.
In a survey of American medical cannabis users with chronic pain, respondents listed “fewer side effects” and “better symptom management” as top reasons for substituting prescription drugs with medical cannabis.
Recent population studies show that medical cannabis legalization has been associated with reduced opioid overdose mortality, reduced opioid-related hospitalizations, and decreased opioid prescription. But the study, titled “Medical Cannabis Use Reduces Opioid Prescriptions in Patients With Osteoarthritis,” also concluded that, currently, there is “insufficient evidence to show that Medical Cannabis can be an effective replacement for opioids.”