Prescription opioid users who frequently consume the cannabis plant-derived extract medication Sativex (nabiximols) substantially reduce their opioid intake over time, according to data published in the journal Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Technology.

Sativex is an oromucosal cannabis spray containing nearly equal portions of plant-derived THC and CBD. It is available by prescription in numerous countries, but it is not FDA-approved in the United States.

A team of researchers affiliated with the Norwegian Institute of Public Health assessed the relationship between the use of Sativex and opioids over a one-year period in a cohort of patients prescribed both substances.

They reported that those who filled their Sativex prescriptions three times or more during the study period decreased their use of prescription opioids. This decrease “was even more evident among those filling five or more prescriptions.” By contrast, an inverse relationship was identified among those infrequently engaged in the use of Sativex.

Authors concluded: “This is one of a few studies investigating the impact of medicinal cannabis use on individual level opioid use. … Looking at all those filling a prescription for Sativex, opioid use was only marginally lowered in the follow-up period. Some Sativex users, however, filled more prescriptions for Sativex and were able to reduce their opioid use substantially. Further studies are needed to elucidate more details on these patients, so as to know who can benefit from such cannabis-based extracts in reducing their opioid use.”

Numerous studies have previously identified a relationship between patients’ consumption of medical cannabis and a reduction in their use of opioids and other prescription drugs.

Full text of the study, “Possible opioid-saving effect of cannabis-based medicine using individual-based data from the Norwegian Prescription Database,” appears in Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology. Additional information is available from NORML’s fact sheet, “Relationship Between Marijuana and Opioids.”

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