If there was a medical marijuana clinic in your area, it might be the last chance for those who use opioid prescription drugs to manage chronic pain. A recent study performed by scientists at the University of Michigan shows that marijuana may help some patients reduce the quantity of opioids they consume to deal with pain.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 1999 to 2014, in the U.S. there were about 165,000 cases of patient deaths related to prescription opioids overdose. Usually, that kind of medication is prescribed for the patients who suffer from severe chronic pain. And the higher is the dose a person takes to manage their chronic pain, the higher is the risk of unintentional overdose or death. Moreover, 1 in 4 patients who use opioid medications on a long-term basis is at risk of becoming addicted to the drug. So, the researchers from the UM School of Public Health decided to find out whether medical marijuana may be used instead of opioid painkillers.
Originally, the main goal of the study was to discover if medical cannabis is effective enough to help those with severe centralized chronic pain. This group of chronic pain sufferers is the one that gets fewer benefits from the traditional opioid-based therapy.
The scientists, in particular, suggested that medical weed may be more effective than opioids for the patients with fibromyalgia and other similar conditions since the previous studies showed that synthetic cannabinoids help people deal with these conditions. The current study, however, did not prove that hypothesis. Cannabis appeared to be almost equally effective for the patients with different pain severity levels. Moreover, those with less severe pain reported using fewer opioids and having a better quality of life after starting to use medical cannabis as a painkiller.
In general, the study showed that after using medical cannabis, the patients with chronic pain use 64 percent less prescription opioid medications than before the experiment. The participants also reported having fewer side effects compared to their regular treatment, and having a 45-percent improvement in the quality of their daily life after using medical weed to manage chronic pain.
The authors of the study suggest that many chronic pain patients may use medical weed as an alternative to their prescription opioid medications to reduce the negative side effects and increase the quality life. On the other hand, the scientists admit the fact that more research is needed to validate the results they have got.
The study was performed by a group of researchers headed by Kevin Boehnke, a doctoral student from the Department of Environmental Health Sciences in the UM School of Public Health, and Dr. Daniel Clauw, a professor of pain management anesthesiology at the UM Medical School. 224 medical cannabis patients from a medical marijuana dispensary in Ann Arbor participated in this study. The surveys for the study were conducted from November 2013 to February 2015.