The herbal remedy popularized at Woodstock may be going mainstream. Smoking pot and eating those weed brownies may make those in chronic pain feel good in more ways than expected.
Opioid addiction is rampant in this country, with an estimated 2.1 million people suffering from substance abuse issues related to their use, according to the National Institute for Drug Abuse. Even more alarming is that the United States constitutes 5% of the world’s population, yet consumes 75% of the world’s prescription drugs. A recent study completed by researchers at University of Michigan’s School of Public Health reported that people who use cannabis for chronic pain showed a 64% decrease in the use of painkillers, like Oxycontin and Vicodin.
Kevin Boehnke, lead author and doctoral student in the UM School of Public Health’s Environmental Health Sciences says,
We’re in the midst of an opioid epidemic and we need to figure out what to do about it. I’m hoping our research continues a conversation about cannabis as a potential alternative for opioids.
The study, published in the Journal of Pain, used an online questionnaire to conduct a cross-sectional retrospective survey of 244 medical cannabis patients who used a medical cannabis dispensary at the UM School of Public Health between November, 2013 and February, 2015. They collected demographic data, changes in opioid use and side effects before and after, quality of life after using cannabis.
The study’s aim was to examine whether using medical marijuana for chronic pain changed the pattern of opioid use in those suffering from chronic pain.
Among the study’s participants, it was found that there was a 64% decrease in opioid use, a 45% decrease in medication side effects and an improved quality of life. Thus, it was determined that “weed” may be an effective alternative treatment for chronic pain.
Interestingly enough, those states and the District of Columbia where medical marijuana is legal, research has shown a reduction in opioid use as well.
We would caution against rushing to change current clinical practice towards cannabis but note that this study suggests that cannabis is an effective pain medication and agent to prevent opioid overuse.
More broader studies will have to be conducted to determine how patients in chronic pain can use medical marijuana for pain management.