Study: Medical Cannabis Use Reduces Opioid Prescriptions in Patients with Osteoarthritis

Feb 2, 2022

In the late 1990s, medical practitioners began prescribing them at a greater rate, when pharmaceutical companies reassured the medical fraternity that patients wouldn’t become dependent on prescription opioid pain relievers, then the opioid crisis erupted. What followed was a catastrophe – there was a widespread diversion and misuse of opioid medication before it became plain that the drug indeed posed addictive qualities. 

People always have low tolerance level on significant pain, on this time, Analgesics like opioid are used in common. Osteoarthritis (OA) can result in significant pain, often requiring pain management with opioids. According to a study performed by researchers at Thomas Jefferson University and the Rothman Orthopaedic Institute in Philadelphia, medical cannabis has the potential to be an alternative to opioids for chronic pain conditions.

According to the report, opioids have shown statistically significant “but small improvements in treating chronic pain at the cost of dose-dependent risks of substance abuse disorders, addiction, overdose, and death.”

The researchers, nevertheless, noted that opioid use for OA increased from 13.4% to 17% between 2007 to 2014, despite increased awareness of their adverse effects. 

Population studies show that Medical Cannabis legalization has been associated with reduced mortality due to opioid overdose, reduced opioid-related hospitalizations, and decreased opioid prescription. However, there is so far insufficient evidence to show that Medical Cannabis can be an effective replacement for opioids.

Approximately 50,000 people in the United States perished from opioid-related overdoses in 2019. The misuse of opioids, as well as their addiction, is a grievous national crisis. Figures from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that the entire “economic weight” of prescription opioid misuse is roughly $78.5 billion a year. The figure also includes the addiction treatment, cost of healthcare, lost productivity, and criminal justice involvement. 

Forty patients with chronic OA pain were certified to use medical cannabis. Average morphine milligram equivalents per day of opioid prescriptions filled within the six months prior to medical cannabis certification was compared to that of the six months after. Researchers monitored the pain and Global Health scores at baseline, three, and six months post cannabis certification.

They found that the average morphine milligram equivalents prescribed per day decreased from 18.2 to 9.8 (n=40, p<0.05). Likewise, the percentage of patients who dropped to 0 was 37.5%. Pain scores “decreased significantly at three and six months, and Global Physical Health score increased significantly by three months,” stated the report.

Medical Cannabis “reduces opioid prescription for patients with chronic OA pain and improves pain and quality of life,” concluded the researchers.

More and more studies show good results that medical cannabis is effective on pain reduce. No matter whether it can replace drugs use like opioid or not, it’s a good thing for those who is looking forward a better treatment on pain reduce.

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