The long-term use of plant-derived cannabis extracts by patients with chronic pain is associated with reduced reliance on prescription opioids, according to data published in the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences

A team of Italian researchers assessed the use of prescription opioids and other medicines in a cohort of chronic patients in the six months immediately prior to and immediately following their initiation of medical cannabis. 

Authors reported that a significant percentage of subjects ceased their use of prescription opioids by the conclusion of the trial. They concluded, “Analyses by subgroups showed a statistically significant difference in the proportion of female opioid non-users before and after cannabis-based oil treatment (34.1 percent to 56.1 percent), as well as in the proportion of under-65 years old opioid non-users before and after cannabis-based oil treatment (32.5 percent to 55 percent), in the proportion of opioid non-users with non-severe comorbidity (33.3 percent to 54.2 percent), and … in the proportion of opioid non-users with a chronic pain condition (32.6 percent to 59.2 percent).”

The findings are consistent with dozens of other studies showing that pain patients typically reduce or eliminate their use of prescription opioids following the use of cannabis. Inconsistent with prior studies, authors did not identify an association between medical cannabis use and a significant reduction in patients’ use of other prescription drugs, including benzodiazepines

Full text of the study, “Long-term cannabis-based oil therapy and pain medications prescribing patterns: An Italian observational study,” appears in European Review for Medical and Pharmacological SciencesAdditional information is available from the NORML fact sheet, ‘Relationship Between Marijuana and Opioids.’ Information on cannabis in the treatment of chronic pain is available from NORML.

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