Participants in the opioid recovery subreddit online social platform frequently report consuming cannabis as an option for managing symptoms of opioid withdrawal, according to data published in the journal PLoS One

Investigators affiliated with the University of California, San Francisco and with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore analyzed all online posts mentioning cannabis in the subgroup over a four-year period.

Researchers reported, “The most frequent phrases from the recovery subreddit referred to time without using opioids and the possibility of using cannabis as a ‘treatment.’ … The most common motivations for using cannabis were to manage opioid withdrawal symptoms in the recovery subreddit, often in conjunction with anti-anxiety and GI-distress ‘comfort meds.’”

They concluded: “A primary finding of this study is that posters reported that the potential of cannabis to address OUD [opioid use disorder] or reduce opioid use may derive from the use of cannabis to manage acute and persistent opioid withdrawal symptoms. … Future research is warranted with more structured assessments that examines the role of cannabis and cannabinoids in addressing both somatic and affective symptoms of opioid withdrawal.”

A 2015 placebo-controlled study reported that the administration of oral THC reduced opioid withdrawal severity among participants in an in-patient detoxification program. More recently, a 2020 study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment reported that a majority of patients experiencing opioid withdrawal turn to cannabis to effectively manage various symptoms, including anxiety, tremors, and trouble sleeping. A 2020 review article published in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research concluded: “The evidence summarized in this article demonstrates the potential cannabis has to ease opioid withdrawal symptoms, reduce opioid consumption, ameliorate opioid cravings, prevent opioid relapse, improve OUD treatment retention, and reduce overdose deaths. … The compelling nature of these data and the relative safety profile of cannabis warrant further exploration of cannabis as an adjunct or alternative treatment for OUD.”

Full text of the study, “Naturalistic cannabis use reported in online opioid and opioid recovery community discussion forums,” appears in PLoS One. Additional information is available from the NORML fact sheet, ‘Relationship Between Marijuana and Opioids.’

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