According to a recent scientific journal published in the Canadian Journal of Anesthesia, medical marijuana patients show significant decreases or eliminations in opioid use over time. Although studies of the medical benefits of cannabis in the United States are slow to publish with the continued advance of marijuana legalization, more empirical evidence is being passed from the medical community to the general public.
The US was undeniably facing an opioid crisis. Health authorities recognized this back in 2016. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “2018 data shows that 128 people die every day from opioid overdoses in the US. Opioid abuse and addiction – including prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl – is a major national crisis affecting public health, as well as social and economic well-being. “
It is no surprise that medical experts are looking for alternatives to manage chronic pain. Now that legalization efforts are under way in the US, marijuana is being studied as an alternative treatment to standard opioid prescriptions by pain management professionals.
The observational study took place between September 2015 and July 2018 at community cannabis clinics in Ontario, Canada. Like many other studies done in recent years, the researchers focused on a group of patients who were permitted to use medical marijuana to treat long-term pain problems. The team of Canadian researchers found that “the proportion of people who reported using opioids fell by half over a twelve-month period”.
The authors concluded: “Over time, individuals who continued to use cannabis in this longitudinal study reported lower scores for pain severity and pain interference, and improved scores for quality of life and general health symptoms. … [T]The proportion of patients who used opioids at each follow-up visit was reduced, suggesting an opioid-sparing effect with cannabis use. … Our data support the need for robust clinical trials given the overall rise in opioid attitudes for those who have still used cannabis. “
The results were published within weeks of a similar medical study re-conducted by researchers on Canadian soil. They also concluded that “the high rate of cannabis use in chronic pain and the subsequent decrease in opioid use suggest that cannabis has a role in reducing harm in the opioid overdose crisis that may affect patients’ quality of life and improves overall public health. ”
Medical experts clearly point to the need to study the health benefits of cannabis and we can only hope that the American government will follow up on their appeal.
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