US researchers have found more evidence for medicinal cannabis as a potential solution to the country’s opioid crisis.

The team from Emerald Coast Research and Florida State University College of Medicine surveyed 2,183 medicinal cannabis users shortly after the medicine was legalised in the state.

Participants reported reduced pain and improved physical and social functioning after using medicinal cannabis while the majority of those who had been taking oxycodone, codeine and other opioids to treat their pain were able to stop or reduce them.

Participants had a range of conditions, including anxiety disorders, chronic pain, depression, insomnia and post-traumatic stress disorder and most were using medicinal cannabis daily.

Some 61% were taking opioids before being prescribed medicinal cannabis, with 70.5% of those doing so for at least two years.

Further analysis found that 79% of opioid users were able to stop or reduce them after starting medicinal cannabis treatment. The number taking hydrocodone with acetaminophen (paracetamol) and oxycodone with acetaminophen, the two most commonly used opioids in the study, fell five-fold.

The vast majority (90.6%) said they found medicinal cannabis to be very or extremely helpful in treating their medical condition, while 88.7% said it was very or extremely important to their quality of life.

Levels of pain improved in 85.9% of participants, 84% said health problems weren’t interfering with normal social activities as much, and more than half said physical activities, from housework to running, weren’t as difficult as they had been before treatment.

Most participants (68.7%) experienced at least one side-effect, the most common of which were dry mouth, increased appetite and drowsiness.

Researcher Carolyn Pritchett said: “A large number of people feel the need to take opioid pain medication. If there’s the option to instead use a medicine with less harmful side-effects, including a lower risk of overdose and death, then it should perhaps be considered. 

“But more research, including studies that follow patients over time, is needed before substituting opioid painkillers for medical cannabis becomes commonplace.”

Published in the peer-reviewed journal Substance Use and Misuse, the study’s limitations include the use of self-selected participants and the retrospective nature of the survey/the potential for recall bias. It was partially funded by Trulieve Cannabis Corporation.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia’s Rothman Orthopaedic Institute found patients with arthritis and chronic back pain also reduced their opioid use when prescribed medicinal cannabis.

The team followed 226 patients, certified by their doctors to buy the medicine in Pennsylvania, for six months. Delivery methods included vaping, smoking and edibles.

They found opioid use fell by around 40%, with 37% of arthritis patients and 38% of back pain patients stopping altogether.

Both groups reported a reduction in their pain symptoms and an improvement in their physical health.

Prior to launching Cannabiz, Martin was co-founder and CEO of Asia-Pac’s leading B2B media and marketing information brand Mumbrella, overseeing its sale to Diversified Communications in 2017. A journalist...

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