According to a new study, the daily use of cannabis over six months provides pharmacological support for patients seeking to reduce their use of prescription opioids.
The study, titled A pilot study of medical cannabis – opioid reduction program, was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience.
For the study 600 chronic pain patients participated Each of the subjects indicated their desire to taper off opioids over the course of treatment, reports NORML. Patients typically consumed between one and three grams of cannabis per day during the study period.
After six-months, 156 patients (26 percent) had ceased taking opioids and an additional 329 subjects (55 percent) reduced their opioid intake by an average of 30 percent.
“Medical cannabis provided pharmacological support throughout the tapering process … [and] was very helpful to many patients,” the study’s author concluded. “The positive results justify further investigation.”
The study’s full abstract states:
Many chronic pain patients have prescribed opioids at doses exceeding the current Guideline. Tapering the dose can be difficult, as patients fear a return to a state of overwhelming pain. Several factors can increase the likelihood of success: the patient’s readiness for change, psychological support, pharmacological support, and careful monitoring. This pilot study addressed these four factors. Six hundred patients took part. Each was taking daily opioid doses ranging from 90-240 mg morphine equivalent dose (MED). All indicated they were prepared to reduce their opioid dose. Over a six-month period, opioid doses were tapered according to individual needs, usually 10% every 1-2 weeks. Psychological support was provided through a freely available web-based mental health and wellness tool. Medical cannabis provided pharmacological support at the rate of 0.5g/day for each 10% reduction in opioid dose, as needed. Physicians monitored patients regularly according to each patient’s needs. After 6 months, 156 patients (26%) had ceased taking opioids. An additional 329 patients (55%) had reduced their opioid use by an average of 30%. One hundred fourteen patients (19%) neither increased nor decreased their opioid use. The one patient whose opioid dose was increased had poorly controlled pain and an aggravated pain condition. The success of this medical cannabis – opioid reduction program in a large proportion of patients is grounds for further investigation.