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WIRE: Data shows medical cannabis access decreases opioid use for chronic pain patients

Ann Arbor, MI: Chronic pain patients with legal access to medicinal cannabis significantly decrease their use of opioids, according to data published online ahead of print in The Journal of Pain.

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Investigators at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor conducted a retrospective survey of 244 chronic pain patients. All of the subjects in the survey were qualified under Michigan law to consume medicinal cannabis and frequented an area dispensary to obtain it.

Authors reported that respondents often substituted cannabis for opiates and that many rated marijuana to be more effective.

“Among study participants, medical cannabis use was associated with a 64 percent decrease in opioid use, decreased number and side effects of medications, and an improved quality of life,” they concluded. “This study suggests that many chronic pain patients are essentially substituting medical cannabis for opioids and other medications for chronic pain treatment, and finding the benefit and side effect profile of cannabis to be greater than these other classes of medications.”

About 40 people die daily from opioid overdoses, according to the US Centers for Disease Control.

Long-term daily use of herbal cannabis has been shown to mitigate analgesia and significantly reduce opioid use in chronic pain patients unresponsive to conventional therapies. Observational studies also show lower levels of opioid-related abuse and mortality in jurisdictions where patients are permitted medical cannabis access.

For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org. Full text of the study, “Medical cannabis associated with decreased opiate medication use in retrospective cross-sectional survey of chronic pain patients,” appears in The Journal of Pain.

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