Pain Patients Use Fewer Opioids Following Initiation of Medical Cannabis

ST. PAUL, MN — Chronic pain patients typically decrease their daily intake of opioids following their enrollment in a state-sanctioned medical cannabis access program, according to data published in the journal Annals of Pharmacotherapy.

Investigators from HealthEast Care Systems, a non-profit health care provider, assessed the use of opioids and benzodiazepines in 77 intractable pain patients newly enrolled in the Minnesota Medical Cannabis Program. Researchers reported “a statistically significant decrease in MME (milligram morphine equivalents) from baseline to both three and six months.”

Patients enrolled in other states’ access programs – such as in IllinoisMichiganNew Mexico, and New York – have demonstrated similar trends.

Authors concluded: “Over the course of this 6-month retrospective study, patients using medical cannabis for intractable pain may have experienced a significant reduction in the average MME available for pain control. A non–statistically significant difference in average benzodiazepine dose was observed. The results of this study add to the currently mixed body of evidence suggesting that medical cannabis may be effective for treating pain.”

Full text of the study, “Medical cannabis: Effects on opioid and benzodiazepine requirements for pain control,” appears in Annals of Pharmacotherapy. Additional information is available from the NORML fact-sheet, “Relationship Between Marijuana and Opioids.”

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