With more studies on cannabis, clinical evidence is emerging that proves that cannabis can be substituted for the use of prescription drugs – opioids in particular. Further research is being conducted. However, it is not entirely surprising given cannabis’s many medical benefits, particularly in pain management. Many people appear to be making the switch after weighing up the pros and cons of both cannabis and other prescription drugs.
Studies On Cannabis
According to two studies presented at the 2022 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, giving patients with osteoarthritis and chronic back pain access to medical cannabis can decrease or perhaps eliminate the need for opioids for pain management.
Studies conducted under the direction of Principal Investigator Asif M. Ilyas, MD, MBA, FAAOS, also showed that patients’ quality of life and pain scores increased after receiving a medical cannabis certification.
Patients with persistent back pain reported improvements in the severity and frequency of their pain, as well as increased daily function following medical cannabis usage when compared to baseline (three, six, and nine months).
At three months, patients with osteoarthritis significantly improved their Global Physical Health quality of life score – going from 37.5 to 41.4.
Additionally, according to a paper published on April 15 in the journal Health Economics, people who suffer from anxiety, sleep problems, pain, or seizures who also have access to legal recreational cannabis can – and do – reduce their use of prescription medications. The Cornell researchers discovered that when states allow cannabis for recreational use, the number of prescriptions for medications to treat a variety of medical illnesses dramatically decreases.
This shows us that many people prefer cannabis over other controlled substances, which is strengthened by another study, conducted by a group of American and Canadian academics. According to this study, nearly half of the 2,697 Canadian patients who have access to medical marijuana stated they are replacing the use of other controlled substances with cannabis.
Findings from the Journal of Cannabis Research show that 50% of people who admitted to substituting cannabis for prescription medications indicated they did so to avoid opioids. Additionally, many people are making the switch to cannabis to reduce their alcohol intake.
Another notable finding of the poll is that over one-third of participants are substituting cannabis for prescription medications without informing their primary care physicians. While it’s clear that many people would prefer medical cannabis over other controlled substances – and even alcohol – it’s also clear that medical care providers are unaware of this fact, or they do not have the resources to assist their patients that prefer cannabis.
The study’s authors concluded that patients frequently substitute other drugs with cannabis without professional advice from their primary care providers. This shows the need for physician education on cannabis as well as clinical cannabis experience to bridge the gap between traditional medicine and medical marijuana.
Further research is needed on cannabis – this much we know. Future studies need to be geared towards finding strategies for effectively bringing primary care providers into the discussion regarding medical cannabis. There need to be actionable steps for these care providers to effectively assist their patients in the way that they are the most comfortable with, whether that’s traditional medicine and controlled substances or making the switch to medical cannabis.
While many patients lean towards medical cannabis due to its wide range of health benefits, as well as the fact that it can have fewer adverse effects, it is imperative that patients are well educated on medical cannabis. Like any other drug, cannabis can have different effects on different people and each person should have access to knowledgeable advice and information from their care provider if that is the route they would like to take.
There are many possible side effects of opioid use for pain management, such as problems with breathing while sleeping, immunosuppression, and constipation, to name a few, not to mention the high risk of addiction. Alcohol is no different. Also with a high risk for addiction and many long-term effects, like heart disease, liver problems, and digestive issues.
It is hardly a surprise that many people are turning to medical cannabis rather than these substances, and it is necessary for research and medical systems to reflect this and begin finding ways to integrate medical cannabis into the medical industry holistically.
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