In results from a recent study, respondents reported that cannabis use led them to decrease their use of pharmacological treatments, including opioids.
A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) this month shows that people with chronic pain are using cannabis as a replacement for prescription pain medications. The cross-sectional study was conducted from March–April 2022 using data from 1724 adults with chronic pain living in 36 states, plus Washington D.C., that had medical cannabis programs (1). The study received funding by National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) (1).
The “Results” section of the paper stated (1): “More than half of adults who used cannabis to manage their chronic pain reported that use of cannabis led them to decrease use of prescription opioid, prescription non-opioid, and over-the-counter pain medications, and less than one percent reported that use of cannabis increased their use of these medications.”
The authors also went on to state that (1) “the high degree of substitution of cannabis with both opioid and non-opioid treatment emphasizes the importance of research to clarify the effectiveness and potential adverse consequences of cannabis. Our results suggest that state cannabis laws have enabled access to cannabis as an analgesic treatment despite knowledge gaps in use as a medical treatment for pain.”
“It is no wonder that those with legal access to it are substituting cannabis in lieu of other, potentially less effective and more harmful substances,” said NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano (2). “As legal access continues to expand, one would expect the cannabis substitution effect to grow even more pronounced in the future.”
Among the other results (1), 38.7% reported that their use of cannabis led to decreased use of physical therapy, while 5.9% reported it led to increased use; 19.1% reported it led to decreased use of meditation, while 23.7% reported it led to increased use; and 26.0% reported it led to decreased used of cognitive behavioral therapy, while 17.1% reported it led to increased use. Fewer than half of respondents reported that cannabis use changed their use of nonpharmacologic pain treatments.