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Learn | 04.01.2022

Researchers Say Cannabis Significantly Decreases The Need For Opioids

Each patient presented a dramatic decrease in morphine use after having access to medical marijuana.

Recent findings state that having access to medical cannabis significantly reduces the need for opioid use in patients suffering chronic lower back pain.

What’s even more surprising is some patients who once relied on opioids dropped them altogether after having access to medical marijuana.

Healio was first to report the new findings after interviewing Asif M. Ilyas, MD, MBA, FAAOS, president of the Rothman Opioid Foundation and professor of orthopedic surgery at Rothman Orthopaedic Institute and Thomas Jefferson University.

Ilyas told the outlet that “The extent of patients who went from taking opioids to manage chronic pain to no longer requiring opioids at all surprised us.”

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Photo by Africa Studio / Adobe Stock

Furthermore, he added that his team “anticipated seeing some decrease in [opioid] usage,” but they were more than surprised by how much a patient chose to decrease their opioid use and those who “discontinued using their opioids when they received medical cannabis.”

Ilyas and his team reportedly compared average morphine milligram equivalents per day of opioid prescriptions before patients had access to medical marijuana and after.

Healio notes that the researchers collected information through the following methods;

  • VAS back pain score
  • Numeric back pain intensity
  • Number back pain freuency
  • VAS right leg pain score
  • VAS left leg pain score
  • Numeric leg pain frequency
  • Number leg pain intensity
  • Oswestry Disability Index scores
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Photo by LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS / Adobe Stock Photo

Ilyas and his team report that patients saw a dramatic decrease in morphine milligrams per day, from 15.1 to 11, after having access to medical cannabis through prescription. Even better, 38.7% of patients stopped using morphine altogether.

The researchers examined each patient for 3, 6, and 9 months after receiving a prescription for medical cannabis, and they found improvements in pain intensity, frequency, and overall daily function.

What’s just as interesting is how researchers note the more access someone has to medical cannabis, the less they use morphine. Individuals that had one single administration route saw a morphine mL decrease per day of 20 to 15.1, while those with two or more administration routes dropped from 13.2 to 9.5.

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