Almost as many, 92 percent, agreed that they prefer cannabis to treat their medical condition. Eighty-one percent agreed that medical marijuana alone was more effective than taking cannabis with opioids.
“This study can conclude that medical cannabis patients report successfully using cannabis along with or as a substitute for opioid-based pain medication,” the team reported in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.
Results were similar when using medical marijuana with non-opioid pain medications, according to the study. The authors of the new survey, led by Amanda Reiman of the University of California Berkeley, say the data furthers the need to examine marijuana as a “viable substitute for pain treatment.”
Opioid Deaths Increasing
“The treatment of pain has become a politicized business in the United States,” Dr. Reiman. “The result has been the rapidly rising rate of opioid related overdoses and dependence.”
Drug overdose deaths and opioid-involved deaths continue to increase in the United States. According to the CDC, most drug overdose deaths (more than six out of 10) involve an opioid, with 91 Americans dying every day from an opioid overdose, including prescription opioids and heroin.
“Cannabis has been used throughout the world for thousands of years to treat pain and other physical and mental health conditions,” said Dr. Reiman, who is lecturer in the School of Social Welfare at UC Berkeley. “Patients have been telling us for decades that this practice is producing better outcomes than the use of opioid based medications.
“It’s past time for the medical profession to get over their reefer madness and start working with the medical cannabis movement and industry to slow down the destruction being caused by the over prescribing and overuse of opioids,” Reiman said.
“A society with less opioid dependent people will result in fewer public health harms,” the authors of the new study noted, reports Beth Mole at ArsTechnica.
The study was performed by the University of California Berkeley in collaboration with HelloMD, a community of medical cannabis patients. HelloMD surveyed its patient database, collecting survey data from close to 3,000 participants. Patients were asked about their use of cannabis and how it affected their consumption of opioids.
“The latest publication from the National Academy of Sciences clearly refuted the ‘gateway drug’ theory that using marijuana can lead to opioid addiction, instead finding evidence of cannabis having multiple curative benefits,” said Dr. Perry Solomon, chief medical officer of HelloMD.
“Our study further substantiates this,” Dr. Solomon said. “Hopefully this will awaken the public, medical professionals and legislatures to the fact that cannabis is a safe, non-addictive product, available to help fight the opioid epidemic.”
With the data available, the authors suggest that “providing the patient with the option of cannabis as a method of pain treatment alongside the option of opioids might assist with pain relief in a safer environment with less risk.”
The study was led by Dr. Reiman; Perry Solomon, MD, chief medical officer for HelloMD; and Mark A. Welty, Ph.D., NCC, LPCC-S, LSW, Kent State University, Adjunct Faculty, Welty Counseling and Consulting, CEO, The Village Network, director of Research and Innovation, The Ohio Patient Network, Board of Directors.
Additional information on the study can be found here.