Study: Patients With Chronic Pain Choose Cannabis Over Prescribed Opioids

Canadian study adds to data on controversial topic

If they had a choice, most patients with chronic pain and those receiving mental health drugs would rather turn to cannabis instead of their prescribed opioid medication, according to new research by the University of British Columbia and the University of Victoria in Canada. The study tracked more than 250 patients. Overall, 63% of the respondents reported using cannabis instead of their prescription drugs, which included opioids for pain, benzodiazepines for sedation, and antidepressants.

Study leader Dr. Philippe Lucas suggests that the main reasons for the switch to cannabis from prescribed medications are reduced adverse effects, better symptom management, and a feeling that cannabis is safer than prescription drugs.

Cannabis may have an important role to play in addressing the problematic use of pharmaceutical medications, such as opioids, according to coauthor Dr. Zach Walsh.

In 2001, Canada became one of the first nations to develop a program to allow access to cannabis for medical purposes. As of August 2016, more than 30 federally authorized, licensed producers of cannabis provided cannabis products to more than 65,000 patients.

“Further research into how well cannabis works compared to the accepted front-line treatments is warranted,” Walsh said. “Additionally, long-term research into the potential impact of the cannabis substitution on the quality of patient’s lives is ongoing.”

The study, published in the International Journal of Drug Policy, was sponsored by Tilray, a medical cannabis production and research company authorized by the Canadian government.

Source: Eurekalert; February 27, 2017.