In a new study, medical cannabis researchers found that people suffering from chronic back pain reduce their opioid intake after starting a medical cannabis treatment.
Some of the patients completely stopped taking opioids altogether.
The study, published in the journal Cureus, also found that patients taking cannabis in different forms — like sublingual tinctures and vaporizers — showed even a higher reduction in opioid use.
“Additionally, the majority of patients did not feel intoxicated or high from medical cannabis, and of those who did, only a small percentage of patients said it interfered with their daily activities,” explained researchers at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University.
After starting with cannabis, they found that the overall average drop in morphine milligram equivalents (MME) per day was 27 per cent.
Patients taking less than 15 MME per day had a 39-per-cent chance of eliminating opioid use after introducing pot. Patients taking more than 15 MME per day lowered their opioid consumption by around 24 per cent.
“Patients show improved pain scores and daily function scores following medical cannabis certification,” reads the study.
For the study, researchers compiled data from American patients who had a diagnosis of chronic, non-cancer-related lower back pain, and were certified as medical cannabis patients between February 2018 and July 2019.
Researchers excluded patients whose pain didn’t come from a spinal issue, or had undergone surgery within six months of starting the cannabis treatment. They also didn’t include people who weren’t consuming opioids.
Of the patient pool, 186 patients met the selection criteria and the average age was 64. Participants were split into patients who consumed more than 15 MME per day and those who consumed less.
“The threshold of 15 MME/day was used for this study given that it represents a typical consumption of two to three opioid pills daily.”
Researchers used Pennsylvania’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) system, a state-run program that collects information on all filled prescriptions for controlled substances and can be accessed online by licensed providers.
Patients were also asked to complete pain and disability questionnaires.
Another study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University also found that patients suffering from chronic pain reported reduced opioid intake after starting medical cannabis treatment.