Study Links Medical Cannabis Use to Decreased Opioid Use
Since Cannabis is still on the Schedule I list of the CSA, proper research (through government grants) is not possible; however, there is research done independently. There are efforts and plans to launch studies that investigate if medical cannabis can decrease opioid use in patients with severe pain. Recently, researchers in New Mexico just released their results in the PLOS One Journal.
The study (published on November 16th, 2017) examined 37 individuals that habitually use opioid to manage their chronic pain; they were then introduced to New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Program (MCP). The individuals were monitored for a 21 month period with the following results:
- 17.27 higher odds of opioid cessation
- 5.12 higher odds for reducing opioid dosage
- A year after enrollment in the MCP, the individuals reported an improvement in pain management and overall quality of life.
The authors concluded, “The clinically and statistically significant evidence of an association between MCP enrollment and opioid prescription cessation and reductions and improved quality of life warrants further investigations on cannabis as a potential alternative to prescription opioids for treating chronic pain.”
OxyContin and the Opioid Epidemic
In an amazingly detailed article from The New Yorker, it is revealed that one of America’s richest families, the Sackler family, is responsible for much of the success behind OxyContin and the popularity of opioids. According to the New Yorker, the family raked in $35 billion since their privately-owned drug manufacturer, Purdue, got OxyContin approved by the FDA in 1995. Even though there are countless alternatives to OxyContin, it was Purdue that pushed opioids onto the market and convinced physicians to prescribe it more through coercive advertising. The potential addicting effects of opioids were covered up, and now we have an epidemic of grave proportions.
President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis
Early this year, the president formed a commission to study the causes of the opioid epidemic and suggest solutions. The most recent findings were sent to the white house, but with a cover letter that stated that individuals that used marijuana were 2.5 times more likely to become addicted to opioids.
Governor Chris Christie, Chairman of the Committee, wrote, “The Commission acknowledges that there is an active movement to promote the use of marijuana as an alternative medication for chronic pain and as a treatment for opioid addiction. Recent research out of the NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse found that marijuana use led to a 2 ½ times greater chance that the marijuana user would become an opioid user and abuser. The Commission found this very disturbing. There is a lack of sophisticated outcome data on dose, potency, drug-drug interactions, effectiveness, and long-term consequences of marijuana used for medical purposes. This mirrors the lack of data in the 1990’s and early 2000’s when opioid prescribing multiplied across health care settings and led to the current epidemic of abuse, misuse and addiction. The Commission urges that the same mistake is not made with the uninformed rush to put another drug legally on the market in the midst of an overdose epidemic.”
The outdated study cited interviewed 43,000 American adults in 2001-2002 with a follow-up with 34,000 in 2004-2005. Apparently, they found that the people that used marijuana from group one were 2.5 times more likely to misuse opioids. However, there are problems with this study.
Could the NIDA Study be Biased?
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has a bias to show the bad effects of marijuana use. For example, their mission statement says, “The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is the lead federal agency supporting scientific research on drug use and its consequences.” So, they have a vested interest in supporting such studies. Also, what if they asked the individuals if they also consumed alcohol? They would have probably had the same result or even higher, so does that mean there is also a connection with alcohol consumption? It’s just not a reliable study to make such a connection. On the other hand, it’s unfair to single out one research study because it supports a political agenda that protects the status quo.
The status quo is not working. It’s time to remove cannabis from Schedule I of the CSA and legalize it at the federal level. Too many resources are being wasted on non-violent “criminals” for possession of cannabis, instead of violent crimes. Voice your support and urge your representatives to support ending federal marijuana prohibition.