Study: A Vast Majority Of Patients Suffering With Chronic Pain Will Choose Weed Over Opioids

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

A majority of chronic pain patients would replace their prescription opioids with legally prescribed medical marijuana if given a choice, a new study shows.

The latest research, published Tuesday in The Journal of Headache and Pain, is bolstering claims that marijuana can help reduce rampant opioid abuse and addiction in the U.S. The study reveals that 73 percent of chronic pain patients with access to medical marijuana substitute their opioid medications with cannabis, reported NORML.

Researchers used data showing the use of painkillers and marijuana among 2,000 Canadian patients who have legal access to medical marijuana for their conditions. (RELATED: Marijuana Approved As Alternative Painkiller By Illinois Legislature)

“Most patients in the pain groups reported replacing prescription medications with medicinal cannabis, the most common of which were opiates/opioids across all patient groups,” said the study authors, according to NORML. “This is notable given the well-described ‘opioid-sparing effect’ of cannabinoids and growing abundance of literature suggesting that cannabis may help in weaning from these medications and perhaps providing a means of combating the opioid epidemic.”

The study adds to a growing body of research showing marijuana could play a vital role in reducing patient’s dependence on addictive prescription painkillers.

A study published in 2017 in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence found in states with legal weed hospital visits for complications from prescription painkillers are dropping. The hospitalization rate for opioid abuse and dependence in states with medical marijuana are roughly 23 percent lower than states without legal access.

Emergency room visits for opioid overdoses are on average 13 percent lower than states without medical marijuana programs.

Medical researchers do not claim pot will “solve” the opioid epidemic, but the study adds to a growing body of evidence that marijuana can be an effective alternative to the painkillers that often lead to heroin abuse and death.

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