Study: marijuana Access Reduces Demand for Opioids Among Pain

PatientsAccording to a new study, access to cannabis reduces pain patients’ perceived demand for opioids. The study, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, is titled Evaluating the co-use of opioids and cannabis for pain among current users using hypothetical purchase tasks. It was first reported on by the National Organization for the Reformation of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

For the study researchers from John Hopkins School of Medicine examined whether or not cannabis availability would hypothetically influence pain patients’ demand for prescription opioids. 155 subjects with recent experience using both opioids and cannabis for pain management participated in the survey.

The method used:

An online survey assessed cannabis and opioid use frequency and dependence measures, pain severity, and demand for both cannabis and opioids alone and when concurrently available using hypothetical purchase tasks. Adults reporting current use of opioids for pain management and past 30-day cannabis exposure (N=155) completed two hypothetical purchase tasks in which only grams of cannabis or units of participants’ index opioids were available for purchase, and two hypothetical tasks in which both were concurrently available and the price of one drug increased whereas the other was kept constant. Paired-sample t-tests compared the demand of each drug alone with when it was available concurrently with an alternative.

“The current study evaluated whether the concurrent availability of cannabis influences opioid consumption using a behavioral economic demand framework”, states the abstract.

The study found that: “[O]ur demand analyses suggests the availability of cannabis decreased opioid consumption (intensity) and increased the degree to which opioid consumption was influenced by opioid price (elasticity).”



They concluded by stating, “These results suggest cannabis may confer an opioid-sparing effect in this population.”

 

The full abstract can be found below:

BACKGROUND:

Cannabinoids may potentiate opioid analgesia and therefore could be used to reduce reliance on opioids for analgesia.

AIMS:

The current study evaluated whether the concurrent availability of cannabis influences opioid consumption using a behavioral economic demand framework.

METHODS:

An online survey assessed cannabis and opioid use frequency and dependence measures, pain severity, and demand for both cannabis and opioids alone and when concurrently available using hypothetical purchase tasks. Adults reporting current use of opioids for pain management and past 30-day cannabis exposure (N=155) completed two hypothetical purchase tasks in which only grams of cannabis or units of participants’ index opioids were available for purchase, and two hypothetical tasks in which both were concurrently available and the price of one drug increased whereas the other was kept constant. Paired-sample t-tests compared the demand of each drug alone with when it was available concurrently with an alternative.

RESULTS:

Demand intensity was significantly reduced and demand elasticity was significantly increased for both cannabis and opioids when the alternate commodity was available, although the reductions in cannabis consumption were more pronounced than they were for opioid consumption in the presence of the alternate commodity.


CONCLUSIONS:

These data provide behavioral economic evidence that cannabis access may modestly reduce demand for opioids in persons who have pain. Additional clinical studies that evaluate the analgesic effects of cannabis and cannabis-opioid effects on pain are warranted.

 

The study was conducted by researchers at the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

You can find more information on this study by clicking here.

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