Medical marijuana may help reduce opioid addiction in patients suffering from chronic pain, according to a new study published in the open access journal PLOS ONE.
Lead by Drs. Jacob Miguel Vigil and Sarah See Stith, researchers observed 37 patients suffering chronic pain who both habitually used opioids and chose to enroll in New Mexico’s medical marijuana program between the years 2010 and 2015.
For that same period of time, researchers also observed 29 similar patients that chose not to enroll in the state’s medical marijuana program and compared the two groups using the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program opioid records for a 21-month observation period.
At the end of the observation period, researchers found that patients using medical marijuana were 17 times more likely to cease their opioid prescriptions, five times more likely to reduce their daily opioid dosage and on average saw a 47% reduction in their daily opioid dosage, compared to a 10% increase in the group that chose not to use medical marijuana.
“Current levels and dangers of opioid use in the U.S. warrant the investigation of harm-reducing treatment alternatives,” Vigil said in a statement. “Our results highlight the necessity of more extensive research into the possible uses of cannabis as a substitute for opioid painkillers, especially in the form of placebo-based, randomized controlled trials and larger sample observational studies.”