Osteoarthritis (OA) can result in significant pain, often requiring pain management with opioids, which can be addictive. According to a study performed by researchers at Thomas Jefferson University and the Rothman Orthopaedic Institute in Philadelphia, medical cannabis has the potential to be an alternative to opioids for chronic pain conditions.
The study acknowledges the current opioid crisis in the US, including “opioid-related deaths nearly quadrupling between 1999 and 2015 and 37.8% of adults using opioids in 2015.”
According to the report, opioids have shown statistically significant “but small improvements in treating chronic pain at the cost of dose-dependent risks of substance abuse disorders, addiction, overdose, and death.”
The researchers, nevertheless, noted that opioid use for OA increased from 13.4% to 17% between 2007 to 2014, despite increased awareness of their adverse effects.
“Population studies show that Medical Cannabis legalization has been associated with reduced mortality due to opioid overdose, reduced opioid-related hospitalizations, and decreased opioid prescription. However, there is so far insufficient evidence to show that Medical Cannabis can be an effective replacement for opioids.”
Therefore, the study, titled “Medical Cannabis Use Reduces Opioid Prescriptions in Patients With Osteoarthritis” investigates whether medical cannabis used in the management of OA-related chronic pain can reduce opioid use.
Forty patients with chronic OA pain were certified to use medical cannabis. Average morphine milligram equivalents per day of opioid prescriptions filled within the six months prior to medical cannabis certification was compared to that of the six months after. Researchers monitored the pain and Global Health scores at baseline, three, and six months post cannabis certification.
They found that the average morphine milligram equivalents prescribed per day decreased from 18.2 to 9.8 (n=40, p<0.05). Likewise, the percentage of patients who dropped to 0 was 37.5%. Pain scores “decreased significantly at three and six months, and Global Physical Health score increased significantly by three months,” stated the report.
Medical Cannabis “reduces opioid prescription for patients with chronic OA pain and improves pain and quality of life,” concluded the researchers.
Photo by Matteo Paganelli on Unsplash.
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