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Medical cannabis may reduce opioid use among chronic pain patients – study

The study confirms previous findings from other studies on pain patients and those with fibromyalgia

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Opioid: A handful of pills on a bright blue background

A new study revealed that medical cannabis therapy is associated with a potential reduction in prescription opioid use by pain patients.

Researchers analysed trends in pain patient’s use of prescription opioids over a six month period before and after they started using medical cannabis.

The study was conducted using the medical files of 68 Israeli chronic pain patients. The number of prescription medications filled and healthcare services accessed was recorded over six months.

Results showed a small reduction in medication use but the researchers highlighted that there are more studies needed.

They reported that patients, “filled fewer opioid prescription medications at follow-up compared to baseline.”

“Medical cannabis may be related to a significant yet small reduction in opioid prescription medication.”

The study is published in the journal BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care.

Opioid studies

The study confirms previous research on medical cannabis and prescription painkiller use.

Research carried out by the University of Michigan School of Medicine revealed that fibromyalgia patients are substituting opioids for cannabis-derived products. The results showed that 70 percent of participants were now using CBD instead of other pain medications because of the fewer side effects.

Addiction numbers in the US are increasingly high. The research may help to reduce the number of people in the US struggling with addiction, a large percentage of which are chronic pain patients. Opioids carry a high risk of addiction, the potential for abuse and also overdose. Overdose deaths increased from 47,600 in 2017 to 49,860 in 2019.

Opioid reduction

Another study from Canada linked the prescription of medical cannabis to opioid reduction for chronic pain patients.

READ MORE  Researchers examine effects of medical cannabis on children

Researchers found that chronic opioid users were able to reduce their consumption after being authorised to take medical cannabis. They studied the effect of medical cannabis on opioid use between 2013 and 2018 in Alberta, Canada.

A total of 5,373 medical cannabis patients defined as chronic opioid users were matched to controls for the study. Patients’ usage was studied for 26 weeks before and 52 weeks after medical cannabis was prescribed by their healthcare provider.

Patients prescribed lower doses showed a showed an increase in oral morphine equivalent, however, those on higher doses showed a ‘significant decrease’ over six months.

Read more: How do I access a medical cannabis prescription?

Fibromyalgia

UK Fibromyalgia announce two-part webinar about arthritis, fibromyalgia and cannabis medicines

The two-part webinar about arthritis and fibromyalgia will also feature patient’s voices

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Fibromyalgia: A stethoscope on a wooden surface surrounded by cannabis leaves

UK Fibromyalgia, Integro Clinics, Primary Care Cannabis Network, CPASS and PLEA are proud to present a collaborative two-part webinar discussing fibromyalgia, arthritis and cannabis medicines.

An estimated 1.5-2 million people are living with fibromyalgia and 10 million with arthritis in the UK. The management of the symptoms of these conditions can take a long time to diagnose correctly and can take even longer before they are effectively brought under control.

This two-part series aims to educate attendees on the experiences and lives of those living with fibromyalgia and arthritis, as well as show the benefits that cannabis medicines and CBD can have in alleviate some of the symptoms of these conditions.

Steven is one of three patients, who will be speaking at the second episode of the webinar.

He is a medical cannabis patient with fibromyalgia. He shares his story from first being diagnosed to gaining his medical cannabis prescription, and how his life has improved since then.

UK Fibromyalgia: A blue and white logo for the charity UK Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia: Steven’s Story

Steven first developed FSH Muscular Dystrophy in 2014 and was diagnosed in 2016, after an initially incorrect diagnosis of Brachial Neuritis. Then in 2015, he developed fibromyalgia, which restricted him to a wheelchair, when outside his home.
His FSH Muscular Dystrophy had caused him severe nerve damage leading to his arm dropping forwards at the shoulder and giving him huge pain. He was prescribed Naproxen, Amitriptyline, Pregabalin, Tramadol and Baclofen.

All had limited effects on his pain and had horrible side effects. So much so that he was taken off them leaving him with very little to treat the symptoms of his fibromyalgia.

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He said: “Fibromyalgia arrived during a very stressful period in my life, triggered by a car crash. Four months after the accident, I was admitted to the hospital having difficulties with walking and pain in my back, hips and legs. I had already exhausted all other common pain killers because of the treatment I had already received for FSH muscular dystrophy, which had started a year before.”

Having come off these medicines, Steven then had six weeks of physiotherapy, which didn’t help and caused him great pain. After this, he was not referred to any doctors or for psychological help, which he should have been as per NICE guidelines. It was at this point that he turned to medical cannabis, and in June 2019, he received his first prescription.

Steven discovered that using medical cannabis allowed him to gain back his mental and physical strength. It allowed him to sleep better and recoup.

Cannabis and Fibromyalgia

Steven said: “I got my first medical cannabis prescription in June 2019 and it was the best decision I’ve ever made to treat my illness. Over time the brain fog that I was perpetually in receded. I can compare my fibromyalgia with a volcano, that was bubbling and active – the cannabis soothed and quietened it. It allowed my stiffness and fatigue to reduce, and my body began to recover and flourish. Whole aspects of my personality that had switched off returned. Mentally and physically, I was healing, and I had the space to be me.

He added: “The consistent quality and regular supply of medical cannabis, as opposed to black-market cannabis, was vital. It allowed me to get a constant level of relief that allowed me to rebalance my vulnerable body and mind. With each month of use, symptoms would reduce or completely go and my kids all commented on the massive change in my energy levels.”

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Steven will be part of the round table panel in the second episode of the webinar and will discuss why he believes medical cannabis should be more widely accessible for patients when conventional medicines no longer help.

He explained: “I want to help raise the profile of medical cannabis as an effective form of treatment for Fibromyalgia at the same time as helping to raise awareness of the condition. Because it destroys people’s lives, it destroys families, careers, takes parents, partners, friends & loved ones away from us and locks them in a constant cycle of pain, anxiety and fatigue. It is a very destructive illness yet mostly invisible because these people are isolated at home suffering & unable to talk about it.

“This webinar is an opportunity to shed light on the topic of fibromyalgia and bring more attention to this illness and exactly how it affects people.”

 

To register for this free event please follow the links to get your tickets:
Part 1: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/168090997699
Part 2: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/168112536121

Dr Anthony Ordman, senior clinical adviser at Integro Medical Clinics Ltd said: “Integro Medical Clinics always recommends remaining under the care and treatment of your GP and specialist for your condition, while using cannabis-based medicines, and the Integro clinical team would always prefer to work in collaboration with them.”

If you would like further information or to speak to Dr Anthony Ordman please contact Integro Clinics:

Website: www.integroclinics.com
Email: Contact@integroclinics.com
Twitter: @clinicsintegro

Read more: Integro Medical Clinic on living with and managing arthritis pain

UK Fibromyalgia: A banner for collaborative content

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70 percent of dystonia patients find medical cannabis improves sleep – study

Researchers aimed to examine the effect of medical cannabis on dystonia muscle activity and related pain in patients

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Dystonia: A blue brain lit up by a blue light to highlight parkinsons disease

A new study revealed that consumption of medical cannabis in adults with dystonia may improve symptoms and alleviate pain related to the condition.

The study on dystonia was presented as part of the International Congress of Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Virtual Congress 2021 which was held between 17 to 22 September.

The researchers aimed to examine the effect of medical cannabis on dystonia muscle activity and related pain in patients with Israeli Ministery of Health (MOH) approved cannabis license.

Dystonia causes uncontrollable and often painful spasms associated with Parkinson’s Disease. It also causes uncontrollable blinking, shaking and can cause the body to twist into unusual positions. It is a lifelong condition but the symptoms can be controlled with medication.

Dystonia study

Researchers from Tel Aviv University contacted 23 patients with an approved license from the MOH to assess scale, demographics, cannabis use and treatment effects using a 5-point Likert scale. The Likert scale is a type of scale. It’s a question with a series of answers that range from one extreme to another. Patients self-report their answers as to where they fall on the scale.

The study consisted of 11 women and 12 men who reported using cannabis for a maximum of 3.5 years and a minimum of at least 1.5 years. The dose amounts ranged between approximately 42.7 and 2.5 per month. A total of 48 percent of the participants revealed they used cannabis oil extract while 47.8 smoked dried buds and a further 8.7 percent used both.

The results

A large percentage of participants at 70 percent said they found an improvement in their sleep. The self-report efficacy of medical cannabis was 3.3 out of five and for those experiencing pain, 3.7 out of five. Those who said they experienced an improvement also reported using a higher THC dose. They found smoking medical cannabis more effective than consuming oil.

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The adverse effects reported included dry mouth, worsening mood, anxiety with hallucinations and suicidal ideation in three participants. these participants stopped receiving medical cannabis due to the effects.

The researchers recorded limitations as the inclusion of patients with differing dystonia symptoms, uncontrolled dosing and administration methods along with the small study size.

The concluded: “Medical cannabis seems to improve symptoms of dystonia and related pain. A higher daily dose of THC and smoking rather than sublingual oil are significantly more efficacious.”

Read more: Cannabis patients show an improvement in anxiety and pain

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Trigeminal neuralgia: How cannabis can help with the excruciating pain

Although it is rare, approximately 1 in 10,000 people develop the condition each year

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Trigeminal Neuralgia: A bottle of CBD oil against a dark background with two cannabis leaves beside it.

Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) is a chronic pain condition that affects the trigeminal nerve, which carries sensation from your face to your brain.

Although it is rare, approximately 1 in 10,000 people develop this condition each year.

The main symptom of trigeminal neuralgia is a sudden attack of severe, sharp, shooting facial pain. The pain may last only a few seconds to a few minutes, but can occur repeatedly, during an attack. The pain is often described as excruciating, like an electric shock. The attacks can be so severe that you’re unable to move while they’re happening. Pain can also arise in other areas that are supplied by the trigeminal nerve, such as the cheek, jaw, eye and forehead.

Initially, it can present itself as short, slight pain, but TN can develop and have more enduring impacts, which can take the form of longer-lasting, more intense pain. The condition affects more women than men and is more likely to affect people who are over 50.

Helen, a patient at Integro Medical Cannabis Clinics, recounts her story from first using conventional medicines to receiving her medical cannabis prescription. Since then, she has seen a significant improvement in her quality of life.

At Integro Clinics, our doctors have seen the positive benefits that cannabis medicines can have in managing our patient’s symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia.

Trigeminal Neuralgia: Helen’s Story

Helen began to suffer from TN 15 years ago, which has meant that she has been unable to work since completing her master’s degree at university. Chronic back pain, which then spread up to her neck, triggered Helen’s TN, which began with agonising migraines.

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Helen describes her pain as always starting on the left side of her face.

“Trigeminal neuralgia comes as a permanent headache around my left eye, it feels like I actually have pain in my eye. The pain spreads into my forehead and my jaw as well. It is a constant, mild pain, but if my neck gets stiff, or if I get stressed, it becomes a more severe pain. My TN means I’m light sensitive and I can only use the computer for short periods at a time. If I am looking at the screen for too long, my headaches get worse, and then as a result the pain in my face flares up.” – Helen

Helen was prescribed anticonvulsants by her doctor, such as pregabalin. She did not find that they eased the pain and they caused short term memory loss.

She added: “When I came off the pregabalin tablets, I realised that they had not actually helped me. I was still feeling the same pain as when I was on the medicine. The only thing that changed was that my short term memory started to get better.”

Trigeminal Neuralgia (TN) : A glass pipette against a pink background. The pipette is filled with a yellow oil

Helen wanted to find an alternative way to manage her pain but did not want to suffer the side effects of using conventional medicines again. After searching through Facebook pages on TN, Helen found out that medical cannabis was legal and available on prescription and could actually help her without any horrible side effects.

“I eventually discovered that cannabis clinics existed on Facebook. I started as a patient at one clinic, but I soon realised that the oil they prescribed wasn’t working for me. So, I then became a patient at Integro and this is where I started to see the benefits of medical cannabis. The team at Integro really helped me to find the best combination of THC and CBD that works for me. I felt like I was listened to and they wanted to help me, rather than just seeing me as being a fussy patient.

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The CBMP’s that I’m taking now has made a huge difference in my life. They relax the muscles in my neck which means that my TN is triggered far less than before. I also get a better night’s sleep which in turn reduces the symptoms of my TN. Even though the pain is still there, it’s much less severe, I can actually read a book or look at my computer screen for longer than I could before. Cannabis has really given me my life back.” – Helen

Chornic pain and cannabis

Dr Anthony Ordman, Senior Consultant at Integro Medical Clinics, has seen how cannabis medicines can help patients suffering from TN. The cannabis helps them to manage their symptoms and relieve their pain so they can get on with activities such as reading, or working on a computer screen

“In trigeminal neuralgia, nerve cells fire off in an uncontrolled way which sends pain signals to the brain, experienced as severe pain in the face and mouth.

“Only one conventional medicine will help, carbamazepine, which doesn’t always help completely. Cannabis medicines help to settle down the over-excited nerves and to dampen down their excessive firing. But then it also helps with the secondary effects of TN such as muscle tension, low mood, poor sleep and so on.”

He added: “At Integro Clinics, we aim to never cause any adverse effects or dependency, but the same can’t be said for conventional medicines. Integro Medical Clinics Ltd always recommends remaining under the care and treatment of your GP and specialist for your condition, while using cannabis-based medicines, and the Integro clinical team would always prefer to work in collaboration with them.”

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If you would like further information or to speak to Dr Anthony Ordman please contact Integro Clinics:

www.integroclinics.com
Email: Contact@integroclinics.com
Twitter: @clinicsintegro

Trigeminal neuralgia charities & organisations:

Trigeminal Neuralgia Association UK
Oral and Facial Pain
Facing Facial Pain

Read more: Integro Medical Clinic: living with and managing arthritis pain

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Cannabis Health is a journalist-led news site. Any views expressed by interviewees or commentators do not reflect our own. All content on this site is intended for educational purposes, please seek professional medical advice if you are concerned about any of the issues raised.

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