New research is lending further credence to the theory that cannabis can (and increasingly frequently does) act as an effective substitute painkiller for opioids.
More than half the medical marijuana patients in a study published in the International Journal of Drug Policy – and funded by the licensed cannabis grower Tilray – said they use cannabis to help them get off heavier prescription drugs, with the largest percentage saying cannabis serves as an alternative to the narcotic painkillers.
Researchers polled 271 Tilray patients and found that 53 percent were using cannabis for pain. About 15 percent were using it to treat mental-health issues like eating disorders or post-traumatic stress disorder. Of those who reported having kicked pharmaceutical drugs for cannabis, 32 percent made the change from opioids, 16 percent from benzodiazepines and 12 percent from anti-depressants.
Most of the patients who’d replaced opioids with cannabis claimed the main reason they’d done so was because cannabis had fewer problematic side effects. It's estimated that as many as 46 Americans - and counting - die from overdosing on opioids (which are lethal in large doses and frequently over-prescribed) every day.
“It doesn’t surprise me, given our increasing recognition of some of the problems with opioids,” said co-author Zach Walsh, a clinical psychologist and cannabis researcher at the University of British Columbia. “Now the truth is coming out and people are looking for other alternatives.”
Arthur Caplan, head of medical ethics at New York University’s school of medicine, remarked that research funded by drug companies can sometimes be influenced by these sponsors.
“I would... like to see more studies by independent investigators,” said Caplan. “Still, bottom line, better something [from Canada’s licensed growers] than nothing.”