A new study out of Illinois is adding to the growing body of evidence that cannabis may help opioid addicts wean themselves off the powerful painkillers.

The study, conducted by DePaul and Rush universities, is thought to be the first peer-reviewed and published research of medical marijuana patients in Illinois.

In a sample of 30 medical marijuana patients, some reported that cannabis allowed them to reduce or eliminate their use of prescription medications altogether, according to the researchers. 

"One of the most compelling things to come out of this is that people are taking control of their own health, and most providers would agree that's a good thing," said lead author Douglas Bruce.

"But the lack of provider knowledge around what cannabis does and doesn't do, the difference in products and ingestion methods and dosing, is all kind of a Wild West."

The study comes after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared opioid abuse an epidemic. It also comes in light of a push from the Medical Cannabis Alliance of Illinois for legislation that would allow marijuana to be prescribed for any condition for which a doctor would normally prescribe opioid drugs.

"This study confirms exactly what we know from patients," alliance Chairman Ross Morreale told the Chicago Tribune.

"A patient could use both (marijuana and prescription drugs) and see what works — that's between the doctor and the patient."

Illinois is one of 29 states where medical marijuana is legal. Currently, patients with one of about 40 serious medical conditions can access medical marijuana.

The patients in the DePaul-Rush study – who typically used marijuana for pain, seizures or inflammation – reported that the marijuana managed certain symptoms better than the prescription drugs did. 

One 58-year-old study participant deemed the side effects of his seizure medication "frightening to say the least. I would not like the way I felt taking it." Another patient reported taking 180 Vicodin a month, while another took ibuprofen by the hundreds over time. One participant with HIV and cancer reported that cannabis was helping her wean off the anti-inflammatory prednisone after taking the medication for years.

More patient study is required to determine what doses of cannabis best relieve symptoms, the researchers concluded.

h/t Chicago Tribune