If you take opioids to treat chronic pain, mental health issues or gastrointestinal issues, you’d probably prefer to use cannabis instead of your opioids, at least that is what new research published in the International Journal of Drug Policy says.
“This study is one of the first to track medical cannabis use under the new system of licensed producers, meaning that all participants had physician authorization to access cannabis in addition to their prescription medicines,” says University of British Columbia Assoc. Prof. Zach Walsh, co-author of the study.
The study, which was conducted by the University of British Columbia and University of Victoria, tracked more than 250 patients who were prescribed medical cannabis for treating conditions including as chronic pain, mental health and gastrointestinal issues. Overall, 63% of study participants said they prefer using cannabis compared to their prescription drugs, which included opioids (to treat pain), benzodiazepines (sedatives) and anti-depressants.
Study lead Philippe Lucas is vice-president of Patient Research and Access at Tilray, a federally authorized medical cannabis production and research company, and the source of funding for the study. Lucas is also a graduate fellow at the University of Victoria Centre for Addictions Research of BC. He suggests the main reasons for the switch to cannabis from prescribed meds is due to reduced side effects, better symptom management and a feeling that cannabis is safer than prescription drugs.
Walsh added that cannabis may have an important role to play in addressing the problematic use of pharmaceutical medications such as opioids.
In 2001, Canada became one of the first nations to develop a program to allow access to cannabis for medical purposes. As of August 2016, more than 30 federally authorized licensed producers of cannabis provided product to more than 65,000 patients.
“Further research into how well cannabis works compared to the accepted front-line treatments is warranted,” says Walsh. “Additionally, long-term research into the potential impact of the cannabis substitution on the quality of patient’s lives is ongoing.”