Chronic pain patients provided with cannabis-based interventions significantly reduce their daily intake of prescription opioids, according to longitudinal data published in the German medical journal Schmerz.

A team of German investigators assessed opioid use trends in a cohort of 178 chronic pain patients who were provided with either whole-plant cannabis extracts, nabiximols (a cannabis plant-derived oromucosal spray), or dronabinol (synthetic THC capsules) for an average period of 366 days. The majority of participants in the trial (65 percent) were older than 65 years of age.

Consistent with dozens of prior studies, patients significantly reduced their daily opioid intake over the course of the trial. 

Investigators failed to identify any significant side effects due to the cannabis-based interventions.

Authors reported: “Patients daily opioid dosages were “significantly reduced in course of time by … 50 percent. This reduction was independent on CAM [medical cannabinoids] dosage, age and gender.”

They concluded: “Patients with chronic pain profit from long-term CAM which safely and significantly lower the consumption of co-medicated opioids, even at low dosages. … Older patients benefit from CAM, and adverse effects do not limit the (chronic) use and prescription of CAM in the elderly.”

Those who consume cannabis medicinally are most likely to report doing so to address chronic pain symptoms. Studies further report that pain patients typically reduce or eliminate their use of opioids following their initiation of cannabis therapy.

Full text of the study, “Cannabinoids reduce opioid use in older patients with pain: A retrospective three-year analysis of data from a general practice,” appears in Schmerz. Additional information is available from NORML’s fact sheet, ‘Relationship Between Marijuana and Opioids.’

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