Vertically integrated US company Ethos Cannabis has launched an opiate-use study with Philadelphia’s Thomas Jefferson University to assess the viability of medicinal cannabis as an opioid replacement for people with chronic pain.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, nearly 10 million people misused prescription opioids for pain relief in 2019 in the country.

The study aims to determine if medical cannabis could replace opioids for those struggling with opioid use disorder or dependency. Due to federal restrictions, research on the topic is scarce.

Lead researcher Brooke Worster

The double blind, four-month trial is seeking participants who are currently diagnosed with chronic pain, have been taking opioids for more than 90 days, and are not using medical cannabis products.

Researchers will observe those given medicinal cannabis to test the impact on their opiate use, pain and withdrawal symptoms. All participants will be asked to complete regular questionnaires and interviews about their health and opioid use.

Lead researcher Brooke Worster said: “We fully appreciate the risk of long-term opioid use including progression to opioid use disorder. There is potential in cannabis as a safer, tolerable therapy to lessen the reliance and impact of opioids.

“However, we have minimal quantifiable science to feel comfortable making solid medical recommendations to patients.

“This study is an important step in that process, using forms and strains of cannabis that are common in the marketplace and getting real-time patient assessments in terms of effective pain relief, side effects, reduction in opioid cravings, and withdrawal.”

She added the research team expects to collect “meaningful data” over the next 18 months.