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Cannabis Effective For Chronic Pain, Substituting Opioids: Johns Hopkins & Univ. Of Michigan Study Confirms

Benzinga · 01/06/2023 16:43

Nearly one in three patients with chronic pain use cannabis as an analgesic agent, and many of them say they're substituting marijuana for opioids, according to data published Friday in the journal JAMA Network Open.

Researchers with the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and Johns Hopkins School of Public Health surveyed 1,724 adults suffering from chronic pain who live in one of the 39 medical marijuana legal states.

The report noted that 31% of respondents said they used medical marijuana (MMJ) to manage their pain while 23% self-identified as medical cannabis consumers.

The findings are consistent with numerous other studies documenting that patients frequently use cannabis for pain mitigation. Many patients, especially military veterans, have either reduced or eliminated prescriptions opioids and other addictive painkillers once learning of and experiencing the benefits of cannabis. 

“Cannabis has established efficacy in the treatment of multiple conditions, including chronic pain, and it possesses a safety profile that is either comparable or superior to other controlled substances," said NORML’s deputy director Paul Armentano. "So it is no wonder that those with legal access to it are substituting cannabis in lieu of other, potentially less effective and more harmful substances. As legal access continues to expand, one would expect the cannabis substitution effect to grow even more pronounced in the future.”

Numerous placebo-controlled trials have documented the ability of inhaled or vaporized cannabis to significantly mitigate pain for those suffering from such illnesses and conditions as diabetes, cancer treatment symptoms, sport-induced inflammation, spinal cord injury and treatment-resistant neuropathy. 

NORML, which first reported the survey, pointed to a 2017 report by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine that concluded that found “conclusive or substantial evidence” exists for cannabis’ efficacy in patients suffering from chronic pain.

Many such studies have been undertaken with similar results.

Daniel Kruger, Ph.D., a researcher at the University of Michigan and principal investigator in a recent 12-week study that focused on the efficacy of different cannabinoid capsules and tablets for managing chronic pain related to fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and overall quality of life.

“Pain is one of the most common conditions people use medical cannabis to treat," said Kruger, who also referred to the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine's conclusion that cannabis is effective in pain relief.