Encouraging Introductory Medical Marijuana Research in Reducing Opioid Use

Marijuana leaf on canvas.
Marijuana leaf on canvas. Image by M. Maggs from Pixabay.

Further meticulous controlled study must be done to conclude if there are pain relief advantages to medical marijuana that can help chronic pain and surpass possible risks. However, a methodical study of published researches to be presented at the Anesthesiology 2019 annual meeting notes initial promise to reduce opioid use and potential abuse with medical cannabis.

Five of the seven studies the analysis focused on concluded medical marijuana may be linked with advantages such as decreased opioid overdose rates, decreased opioid use, improved quality of life and improved pain control.

Mario Moric, MS, a biostatistician at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and lead author of the study said, “Overall the results suggest medical marijuana may provide some benefit in mitigating opioid misuse, but the studies were not randomized controlled trials comparing marijuana to a placebo, which is what we need to determine a true benefit. There are other issues to consider as well, including side effects and the fact that these products often aren’t regulated.”

Added Asokumar Buvanendran, M.D., chair of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) Committee on Pain Medicine, vice-chair of research at Rush University Medical Center, and co-author of the study, “Long-term effects of medical marijuana are not known and haven’t been studied yet. Early clinical evidence suggests that marijuana might have detrimental effects on the brain.”

The many data from the five studies that displayed a positive advantage included a 29% decrease in opioid overdoses in states with medical marijuana and a 44% to 64% decrease in opioid use with chronic pain patients. The two other studies saw no evidence of decreased opioid use overall. One of these studies found that pain actually rose for a small subset of patients using marijuana who had more illnesses and generally sicker.

The researchers concluded the effect of the combined studies was .59, indicating the advantages of medical marijuana were found to be weak to moderate overall, but important. Anything above 0 is positive and anything below 0 is negative, with 1 or higher showing a substantial effect for this type of research.

For more on this story, read Preliminary Medical Marijuana Research Shows Promise in Lessening Opioid Use by American Society of Anesthesiologists on Medical Xpress.

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