With the astounding rise in death rates due to acute opioid overdose, medical cannabis may be a better treatment option, according to a recent study. The new study published in the Substance Use and Misuse Journal found that cannabis usage can quickly manage the opioid epidemic at a community level. In addition to that, their findings also reveal that those who take medical cannabis for pain management experience an overall improvement in their physical and social functioning.   

Opioids are strong painkillers but at the same time, can be quite addictive. In the United States, both illicit (e.g heroin) and prescription use of opioids have increased over the last two decades. For this reason, there were records of opioid overdose-related deaths that quadrupled from 1999 to 2020 recording nearly 550,000 deaths as of that time.

Soon after the legalization of medical cannabis, the authors found that the rate of use of opioids for pain declined after access to medical cannabis. Along with the use of other different pain medications such as oxycodone, codeine, and other opioid derivatives. This was mostly the case in America and Canada since the access to medical cannabis. 

This research is based out of Florida State University College of Medicine and the researchers from Emerald Coast Research in Florida. They described medical cannabis as a “viable alternative to opioid medications”. They arrived at this conclusion from a survey of over 2,183 participants with varying medical conditions including stomach problems, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and most importantly, chronic pain.

The researchers aimed to examine the patient’s view of changes in their health upon the initiation of medical cannabis. Likewise, examine the use pattern among the participants who had physician-approved access to opioids while seeking their view on if it may have affected their intake of opioids. The study encompassed mostly female participants and the average age of participants range between 30 to 60 years. 

From the 66-item survey, the researchers found that a good majority of participants use medical cannabis daily. About 90.6 percent using medical cannabis found it very or extremely helpful for their condition. 68.7 percent gave an account of at least a single side effect including increased appetite, drowsiness, dry mouth, etc, and only 2 percent found it slightly or not helpful at all.

In addition to that, about 85 percent disclosed that the use of this medical cannabis was very or extremely important to their quality of life. On the other hand, a large number of people said it alleviated their pain. Interestingly, none revealed any worse health functioning after medical cannabis use.

What is more, is that the researchers also found that 79.3 percent were able to quit taking pain meds or reduced intake totally after exploring medical cannabis. 11.47 percent disclosed that they function better in daily life ever since they began taking medical cannabis. 

According to the researchers, the evidence is enough to show medical cannabis, under proper medical supervision, is a good treatment option for chronic non-cancer pain in adults. At the same time, a great suggestion to reduce opioid-related harm while maintaining the quality of life.

“Like any other medicine with side effects, patients should be regularly monitored and assessed for adverse events, abuse disorder, and other issues,” says Carolyn Pritchett, lead author of the study.

Meanwhile, the study authors see the need to conduct further studies, but this time, on a population of patients with mental health ailments. They also highlight the importance of consideration of these findings on a public health level. 

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