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Half of medical cannabis patients stop using opioids after 12 months – study



Canadian researchers assessed self-reported opioid consumption patterns in medical cannabis patients

Almost half of medical cannabis patients were able to stop using opioids for pain management after 12 months, finds a new study.

Patients consuming medical cannabis significantly reduce or eliminate their use of opioids over time, according to data published in the Canadian Journal of Anaesthesia.             

A team of Canadian researchers assessed self-reported opioid consumption patterns over time in a cohort of medical cannabis patients who suffered from pain-related issues. 

Researchers reported that many subjects tapered their use of opioids following medical cannabis initiation. 

The primary outcomes studied were pain intensity and pain-related interference scores assessed at three month intervals for a period of 12 months.

The team also assessed anxiety, depression, quality of life, general health symptoms, neuropathic pain, self-reported opioid consumption, and adverse events.

“The proportion of individuals who reported using opioids decreased by half, over a period of twelve months,” they determined.

In addition, the participants’ “pain intensity and pain-related interference” scores were reduced and quality of life and general health improved.

Authors also noted that many subjects switched from consuming herbal cannabis to ingesting oil extracts over the course of the trial.

They concluded: “Over time, individuals who continued consuming cannabis within this longitudinal study reported lower pain severity and pain interference scores, as well as improved quality of life and general health symptoms scores. … [B]eneficial effects of cannabis appear to persist long-term and tolerance may not become a significant issue for patients on a stable regimen. … [T]he proportion of patients using opioids at each follow-up was decreased, … suggesting an opioid-sparing effect with cannabis use. … Our data speaks to the need for robust clinical trials, given the overall increase in opioid cessation for those that remained on cannabis.”

The study comes only weeks after separate Canadian study reported that patients prescribed opioids were able to reduce their opioid dosage by over 70 percent following the consumption of medical cannabis.

Full text of the study, “Patient-reported outcomes in those consuming medical cannabis: A prospective longitudinal observational study in chronic pain patients,” appears in the Canadian Journal of Anaesthesia.


Sarah Sinclair is a respected cannabis journalist writing on subjects related to science, medicine, research, health and wellness. She is managing editor of Cannabis Health, the UK’s leading title covering medical cannabis and CBD, and sister titles, Cannabis Wealth and Psychedelic Health. Sarah has an NCTJ journalism qualification and an MA in Journalism from the University of Sunderland. Sarah has over six years experience working on newspapers, magazines and digital-first titles, the last two of which have been in the cannabis sector. She has also completed training through the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society securing a certificate in Medical Cannabis Explained. She is a member of PLEA’s (Patient-Led Engagement for Access) advisory board, has hosted several webinars on cannabis and women's health and has moderated at industry events such as Cannabis Europa. Sarah Sinclair is the editor of Cannabis Health. Got a story? Email / Follow us on Twitter: @CannabisHNews / Instagram: @cannabishealthmag


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