Opioid prescriptions have jumped 300 percent in the last decade and they are the most commonly prescribed drugs on the market. They are the most dangerous and addictive drugs that often lose effectiveness with long-term use. Now a new study conducted by researchers at The University of New Mexico, involving medical cannabis and prescription opioid use among chronic pain patients, found a distinct connection between having the ability to use cannabis and significant reductions in opioid use.
There is an abundance of evidence that the suppression of medical marijuana is one of the greatest failures of a free society, journalistic and scientific integrity as well as our fundamental values. There is no plant on Earth more condemned than cannabis, yet it has the potential to heal dozens of diseases and curb the rampant use of prescription opioids.
Some studies have suggested that pot may even have a place in curbing the opioid epidemic.
The study titled, “Associations between Medical Cannabis and Prescription Opioid Use in Chronic Pain Patients: A Preliminary Cohort Study,” and published in the open access journal PLOS ONE, was conducted by Drs. Jacob Miguel Vigil, associate professor, Department of Psychology and Sarah See Stith, assistant professor, Department of Economics. The results from this preliminary study showed a strong correlation between enrollment in the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program (MCP) and cessation or reduction of opioid use, and that whole, natural Cannabis sativa and extracts made from the plant may serve as an alternative to opioid-based medications for treating chronic pain.
Today, opioid-related drug overdoses are the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States killing approximately 100 Americans every day. Conventional pharmaceutical medications for treating opioid addiction, such as methadone and buprenorphine-tapering, can be similarly dangerous due to substantial risks of lethal drug interactions and overdose.
“Current levels and dangers of opioid use in the U.S. warrant the investigation of harm-reducing treatment alternatives,” said Vigil, who led the study. “Our results highlight the necessity of more extensive research into the possible uses of cannabis as a substitute for opioid painkillers, especially in the form of placebo-based, randomized controlled trials and larger sample observational studies.”
Cannabis has been investigated as a potential treatment for a wide range of medical conditions from post-traumatic stress disorder to cancer, with the most consistent support for the treatment of chronic pain, epilepsy and spasticity. In the U.S., states, including New Mexico, have enacted MCPs in part for people with chronic, debilitating pain who cannot be adequately or safely treated with conventional pharmaceutical medications.
In a historic and significant moment in American history, in November of 2012, Colorado became the first US state to legalize cannabis for recreational use. The impact of the decision has rippled across the entire country with vast opportunities to educate millions on the top health benefits of cannabis and specifically for pain.
Like other states, New Mexico only permits medical cannabis use for patients with certain debilitating medical conditions. All the patients in the study had a diagnosis of “severe chronic pain,” annually validated by two independent physicians, including a board-certified specialist.