Study Finds Medical Cannabis Can Reduce Opioid Use in Osteoarthritis Patients

Over one third of osteoarthritis patients stopped using prescription opioids after beginning medical cannabis treatment, finds a new study.


Researchers at Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, have found that medical cannabis reduces opioid prescriptions for patients with osteoarthritis and improves pain and quality of life.

The study examined 40 patients with chronic osteoarthritis pain, who were medically certified to use cannabis in the state.

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis in the UK and causes painful swollen joints. It can result in debilitating chronic pain, which is often managed with opioids.

The average morphine milligram per day of opioid prescriptions filled within the six months prior to medical cannabis certification was compared to that in the six months after.

The average opioids taken decreased by more than half, from 18.2 to 9.8, while over a third (37.5 per cent) of patients were able to stop taking them all together.

Pain and quality of life scores were also measured at three and six month intervals.

The patient’s quality of life increased significantly by three months, while their pain levels decreased.

Various routes of administration were used including vaporised oil, vaporised flower, and oral, topical, and sublingual tincture.

Data on adverse effects was also collected from just over half of the patients. 

Of the respondents 57 per cent said they did not feel intoxicated or high after using medical cannabis. 

Of those who did, three said that it did not “interfere with their daily activities”, three said that it “made their day even better”, and three said that they did not like it or that it “interfered with their daily activities.”

The researches concluded that medical cannabis has a “high chance” of decreasing opioid use and should even be considered as a viable treatment before prescribing opioids to osteoarthritis patients.

“Based on our findings, the introduction of MC [medical cannabis] for patients with low levels of opioid utilisation has a high chance of decreasing opioid utilisation and even eliminating the need for opioid medications to control their pain altogether,” stated the study’s authors.

“Our findings suggest that MC should be considered for patients with chronic pain due to OA in order to decrease opioid use. Moreover, because MC has a superior safety profile and minimises the risk of potentially fatal overdose, MC can also be considered a viable option prior to initiating opioid prescriptions.”






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