A study suggests that cannabis for pain replaces opioids. Patients are looking for alternatives to opioids, and cannabis is a preferred option.
The Globe and Mail investigated the study after its publication in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Drug Policy. The study sample consisted of 271 patients with the largest percentage confirming that they used medical cannabis as a substitute for opioids. The opioid crisis is ongoing and kills hundreds of Canadians every year. Opioids often cause death because of the negative side effects related to opioid abuse and because of overdoses.
Cannabis for pain replaces opioids and is preferred
The study found that 53% of the medical marijuana patients used cannabis for pain. The next-largest group used it for mental health reasons including problems like eating disorders. 15% of cannabis using patients are using cannabis for PTSD.
Dr. Zach Walsh, a cannabis researcher and clinical psychologist from the University of British Columbia, said this study is a pointer towards more research into cannabis as a substitute painkiller. He said he isn’t surprised by the number of people turning to cannabis as an alternative. An online survey done last year confirmed an increasing problem with opioid addiction. People are looking for a safer alternative.
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Cannabis for pain and anxiety has few side effects
Dr. Walsh confirmed that cannabis for pain replaces opioids and tranquilizers for many. They prefer the cannabis option because it has fewer side-effects. His research team reviewed research all the way back to the sixties. The findings were consistent. People have been using cannabis for pain for many years, preferring it over opioids.
Are veterans turning to cannabis?
The Globe and Mail also found on investigation that fewer veterans seek opioid prescriptions while the number of medical marijuana prescriptions has increased. There is no proof of a relationship between the two, but US states in which medical cannabis for pain is legal experience a similar phenomenon. It appears that people are effectively replacing opioids with cannabis.
The lack of clinical studies is what keeps the medical fraternity in Canada from endorsing medical marijuana. This is the reason why a few growers have funded trials to make a case for further research.
World-renowned medical ethicist, Arthur Caplan, says the study under discussion was peer reviewed which helps to outweigh the fact that its authors have a financial interest in cannabis. But he would still like to see more independent studies and investigations into cannabis as an effective substitute for opioids.
Grower research better than no research
Caplan, head of medical ethics at New York University, commented that some research is still better than no research. He suggested Ottawa should set up a fund for research into the benefits of cannabis.
The government will hopefully provide at least some funding once legislation is in place, and cannabis should be legal in Canada by spring. Experts on addiction also called on the government to look into dangers associated with cannabis use such as impaired driving, and an increase in teenage recreational use. On the other hand, there have also been requests for research into the potential public health advantages of cannabis. Recreational availability may limit alcohol and drug use.
Meanwhile, it seems that pain patients are indeed turning to cannabis for pain relief. If this helps to save lives, that’s good news.