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Cannabis Instead of Opioids – Did Big Pharma or Our Government Fail Us

is cannabis more effective than opioids for pain

If you’ve ever known someone with an opioid addition, you’ve seen that the impact on their life can be devastating. Opioid addiction has become a serious epidemic in the United States and the statistics are alarming. Prescription drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. One of the best solutions would be finding non-addictive alternatives to opioids for the treatment of pain. Is cannabis more effective than opioids for pain? For many patients, cannabis is an effective pain treatment with a minimal chance of dependence and no risk of fatal overdose. This is an optimal choice compared to opioid-based medications. In fact, in a significant study, patients reported that medical marijuana is just as, or even more effective for pain, than opioid-based pain medication.

Over 130 years ago, Dr. Edward A. Birch was quoted in a seminal article published in The Lancet, writing about his great success in using cannabis to help patients who had become addicted to opioid-based pain medications. He prescribed cannabis originally as a solution for insomnia but noticed that it did much more than help patients sleep. He found that while patients were using cannabis, he could remove the dosage of any opioid-based medications the patient was taking, without any negative side effects.

These comments from over 130 years ago predicted what we now know, that cannabis is an effective medicine for multiple conditions, including pain management, while also reducing the need for opioid and even other non-opioid medications.

While using cannabis to treat pain is becoming more accepted in the U.S., the Schedule I status of cannabis has made it difficult to run large-scale clinical trials on its effectiveness. Current clinical and systematic reviews have shown that cannabis may hold as a standardized pain treatment, while recognizing the constraints that come from small sample sizes and lack of controlled studies. When these reviews show moderate signs for cannabis as a treatment for pain-related conditions, they also call for further research in standardized clinical trials. Meanwhile, at the same time, medical cannabis patients are reporting using cannabis to treat their pain instead of or in combination with opioid-based pain medications.

Is Cannabis More Effective Than Opioids For Pain Relief – Study Results

In a cannabis as a substitute for opioid study, 30% of the sample reported using an opioid-based pain medication at the time or in the previous 6 months. Of participants using opioids, 61% reported using them with cannabis. 97% of the sample “strongly agreed/agreed” that they were able to decrease the amount of opioids they took when they used cannabis at the same time. Also, 89% “strongly agreed/agreed” that taking opioids produced unwanted side effects including constipation and nausea. 92% of the sample “strongly agreed/agreed” that cannabis has more tolerable side effects than the opioid-based medications they took. 81% “strongly agreed/agreed” that taking cannabis by itself was more effective at treating their condition than taking cannabis at the same time as opioids. When asked if cannabis produces the same amount of pain relief as their opioid-based medications, 71% “strongly agreed/agreed” with this statement. 92% of the sample “strongly agreed/agreed” that they prefer cannabis to opioids for the treatment of their condition and 93% “strongly agreed/agreed” that they are more likely to select cannabis to treat their condition if it were more easily available.

Is cannabis more effective than opioids for pain? It’s been pretty obvious for a long time that it is. Although cannabis is continuing to grow as a alternative to opioids for pain treatment, doctors continue to prescribe opioid-based pain medication at an alarming rate. They are incentivized by the pharmaceutical industry to do so as well as still be hampered by our government in some some states. We continue to move in the right direction, but not fast enough. According to the CDC, drug overdoses deaths in the U.S. rose 4.6% in 2019 to 70,980, of which 50,042 involved opioids. Overdose deaths from cannabis in 2019, ZERO.

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