According to the study’s lead author, Dr. Asif Ilyas, an orthopedic surgeon at the Rothman Orthopaedic Institute in Philadelphia, many patients who were prescribed opioids for their chronic pain ended up taking fewer painkillers, or stopped taking them altogether, after doctors certified them for medical cannabis.
When people began taking medicinal cannabis, “we noticed widely a considerable drop in opioid usage,” Ilyas added. The usage of opioids decreased by around 40% when patients began using medicinal cannabis, and between 37% and 38% of patients stopped using opioids entirely.
According to Dr. Stuart Fischer, an orthopedic surgeon at Summit Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine in Summit, N.J., these findings, if confirmed, suggest that medicinal marijuana might be a possible way of treating America’s opioid crisis, which has been fueled in part by prescription opioids.
Fischer, who was not involved in the trials, said, “We have a tremendous number of folks who are on opioids who are being treated for chronic back pain.” We’d be in great shape if we could transfer that population to something that’s less risky but yet as productive.
Ilyas and his colleagues selected 186 people with chronic back pain and 40 people with chronic arthritic pain for the research.
Pennsylvania medicinal marijuana cardholders were approved by their physicians between February 2018 and July 2019. Patients were free to consume cannabis in any way they saw fit, including vaping, smoking, or consuming edibles.
The doctors then monitored the patients’ usage of opioid painkillers over a period of six months using a state-run prescription drug monitoring database and a metric for opioids known as morphine milligram equivalents (MME):
From the beginning to the end of the research period, the average number of MMEs written for daily opioid prescriptions for patients with arthritis decreased from 18.2 to 9.
Additionally, the average daily opioid prescriptions for individuals with back pain decrease from 15.1 to 11 MME.
Patients with arthritis are more likely to completely stop using opioids than those with back pain, and 38% of those people eventually do so.
Patients in both treatment groups reported less pain and better overall health.
Ilyas further noted that, unlike opiate medicines, cannabis for medical purposes did not seem to carry the same danger of addiction.
Ilyas cited opiate addiction and the requirement for ever large doses to get the same effects as a major issue. So far, we haven’t seen any addictive tendencies in medicinal cannabis, and our knowledge suggests you don’t require higher amounts to have the same effects.
According to Fischer, these findings provide further credence to the possibility of using medicinal marijuana to relieve pain.
“This research is obviously in its infancy. Since medical marijuana has not been widely used for very long, additional research and data are needed. For this, we want further data “It was Fischer’s turn to carry on. Nonetheless, these two investigations provide an excellent beginning.
In order to have insurance companies cover medical marijuana the same way they cover prescription opioids, the experts say more study is required.
Cost is a major deterrent, Ilyas said. “It’s really costly, and no insurance company, public or private, covers it at this moment.”
Ilyas has said that future studies would investigate how the advantages of medicinal cannabis vary with the product’s formulation and administration technique.
“However, although the first glimpses we have are encouraging, it’s important to note that our knowledge is still in its infancy. There must be more analysis, “That’s what Ilyas stated.
This week in Chicago, Ilyas gave a presentation on the findings of the two studies at the annual conference of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. It is important to remember that data given at conferences is preliminary until it has been published in a reputable publication.