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2023 Study: Medical Cannabis Reduced Opioid Dosages for Chronic Pain

Updated: 3 days ago

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A 2023 study entitled "Changes in Prescribed Opioid Dosages Among Patients Receiving Medical Cannabis for Chronic Pain, New York State, 2017-2019" that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) posed the query: "Is receiving medical cannabis for a longer duration associated with reducing prescription opioid dosages among patients receiving long-term opioid therapy?"

The study reported that chronic pain patients frequently receive "long-term opioid therapy (LOT), which places them at risk of opioid use disorder and overdose." The considerable risks associated with traditional pharmaceutical opioids has produced a need for "alternative or companion treatments." Medical cannabis is one of these potential alternative treatments avenues.


The Study

The objective of the study was "to assess changes in opioid dosages among patients receiving medical cannabis for longer duration compared with shorter duration." It involved a relatively large cohort of study participants (8,165 patients) which featured a median age of the mid-50s and that was about 58 percent female.


The objective of the study was "to assess changes in opioid dosages among patients receiving medical cannabis for longer duration compared with shorter duration."

The research included patients who received medical cannabis for chronic pain while also receiving opioid treatment. Test subjects were divided into two groups: A nonexposure group that received medical cannabis for 30 or fewer days and an exposure group that received medical cannabis in excess of 30 days.


The study followed participants for eight months, starting with when they began using medical cannabis. Data was analyzed from November 2021 to February 2022.


Results

The research found that "receiving medical cannabis for chronic pain for a longer duration was associated with significant reductions in opioid dosages." It revealed that the greatest reductions in opioid consumption resulted in patients who were receiving higher opioid dosages.


The study's authors observed that "significantly greater reductions in opioid dosage were observed" within the group that had consumed medical cannabis for longer than 30 days.

The study's authors observed that greater reductions in opioid dosage were observed within the group that had consumed medical cannabis for longer than 30 days. More precisely, the daily opioid consumption level among study participants who had received longer medical cannabis "was reduced by 48 percent."


Conclusions

The study concluded that patients who had received medical cannabis decreased their use of opioids. More specifically, it revealed that patients who had been consuming medical cannabis for the longest period were those who most decreased their use of opioids.


"These findings contribute robust evidence for clinicians regarding the potential benefits of medical cannabis in reducing the opioid burden for patients."

"These findings contribute robust evidence for clinicians regarding the potential benefits of medical cannabis in reducing the opioid burden for patients...and possibly reduce their risk for overdose," summarized the scientists. They noted that additional investigations are necessary to confirm the causal effect that it detected and to further explore the benefits and risks of medical cannabis use within the scope of the treatment of chronic pain.


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