Chronic Pain Patients Who Use Medical Cannabinoids Reduce Their Prescription Drug Use, Study Finds

Having legal access to medical cannabinoids allow chronic pain patients to reduce their intake of prescription drugs, suggest the findings of a new studypublished online in the Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine.

Researchers from the University of New Mexico compared the use of prescription medications of 83 pain patients who were enrolled in the state’s authorized medical cannabis program and 42 pain patients who were not enrolled. After analyzing two years worth of data, they found that enrollment in the state program was associated with a significant reduction in prescription drug intake.

The findings are compelling, considering many of the traditional medications prescribed for chronic pain can carry dangerous side effects and a risk of addiction, abuse, and overdose. Cannabinoids could therefore potentially offer a safer pain-relieving method for patients.

“Legal access to [cannabinoids] may reduce the use of multiple classes of dangerous prescription medications in certain patient populations,” the study’s authors concluded. “[A] shift from prescriptions for other scheduled drugs to [cannabinoids] may result in less frequent interactions with our conventional healthcare system and potentially improved patient health.”

According to the study’s findings, 34 percent of pain patients registered with the state’s medical cannabis program were able to eliminate their use of traditional pain prescription drugs altogether. An additional 36 percent of patients registered with the program were found to reduce their prescription intake.

The findings align with a large recent survey conducted earlier this year, which found that 42 percent of over 2,400 patients using cannabidiol (CBD) products were able to stop taking prescription and traditional medications, while 80 percent said they believed CBD to be “very or extremely effective” for treating their symptom or condition.

Cannabinoid products containing more than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are only legal in Washington D.C. and the 29 U.S. states that have passed laws allowing cannabis use for medical purposes. To legally purchase cannabis through these state-approved program, patients must first obtain a recommendation from a licensed physician, and in most cases, register with their respective state. CBD oil products derived from hemp, which contain less than 0.3 percent THC and are thus non-psychoactive, are not listed in the Controlled Substances Act and therefore available in most major markets without the need of a prescription.

You can learn more about the research into cannabinoids for pain by visiting our education page.

Have questions about using cannabinoids for pain management? Join our free ECHO Community to connect with physicians and others who have used or are using cannabinoids for health purposes.

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