A pair of new studies have found evidence that medical cannabis reduces the use of opioids in patients with chronic back pain and osteoarthritis.
In the studies, researchers had access to the records of patients with chronic back pain and osteoarthritis who started using medical cannabis. Their opioid use was measured twice – once before and once six months after accessing cannabis.
A significant decrease in patients’ opioid use following their cannabis prescriptions was found, with 38% of patients completely stopping use of opioids.
Patients also reported decreased pain scores, feeling better, and having better daily functioning following their medical cannabis prescription.
According to some research, between one-third and one-half of the UK population (just under 28 million adults) are affected by chronic pain, for which opioids are the primary treatment.
Even though prescription rates have flattened over recent years, the strength of prescribed opiate drugs has increased successively, leading to 48.9 per cent increase in opioid-related hospital admissions over the last decade.
This latest study adds to growing evidence that cannabis can offer a safe alternative (or an effective adjunct therapy) to opioids, particularly when it comes to chronic conditions.
As the lead author Dr. Asif M. Ilyas says: “Our studies show that medical cannabis can be an effective treatment for chronic back pain and osteoarthritis, potentially helping reduce the reliance on opioids.”
However, “further studies are needed to review efficacy, dosing, and how it can affect opioid use for pain management.”