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Study Finds 50% Opioid Reduction By German Medical Cannabis Patients

Opioids are a blessing and a curse to the human population. In some instances, opioids can be helpful to patients that are suffering from various types of pain, such as the pain that follows a surgical procedure.

However, opioids are also very addictive and exponentially more harmful to the human body compared to cannabis. It is estimated that roughly 7 out of every 10 deaths caused by an overdose worldwide are the result of opioids.

As I have pointed out in previous articles, no one should be shamed by other people for using opioids. As previously mentioned in this particular article, there are times when it is helpful for certain patients in certain circumstances to incorporate opioids into their pain management strategies.

With that being said, cannabis is another tool that chronic pain patients should consider. The cannabis plant is far safer than opioids, and for many patients, it’s a more effective form of treatment as proven by the results of a recent study in Germany. Below is more information about the study via a news release from NORML:

Potsdam, Germany: Chronic pain patients provided with cannabis-based interventions significantly reduce their daily intake of prescription opioids, according to longitudinal data published in the German medical journal Schmerz.

A team of German investigators assessed opioid use trends in a cohort of 178 chronic pain patients who were provided with either whole-plant cannabis extracts, nabiximols (a cannabis plant-derived oromucosal spray), or dronabinol (synthetic THC capsules) for an average period of 366 days. The majority of participants in the trial (65 percent) were older than 65 years of age.

Consistent with dozens of prior studies, patients significantly reduced their daily opioid intake over the course of the trial.

Investigators failed to identify any significant side effects due to the cannabis-based interventions.

Authors reported: “Patients daily opioid dosages were “significantly reduced in course of time by … 50 percent. This reduction was independent on CAM [medical cannabinoids] dosage, age and gender.”

They concluded: “Patients with chronic pain profit from long-term CAM which safely and significantly lower the consumption of co-medicated opioids, even at low dosages. … Older patients benefit from CAM, and adverse effects do not limit the (chronic) use and prescription of CAM in the elderly.”

Those who consume cannabis medicinally are most likely to report doing so to address chronic pain symptoms. Studies further report that pain patients typically reduce or eliminate their use of opioids following their initiation of cannabis therapy.

Full text of the study, “Cannabinoids reduce opioid use in older patients with pain: A retrospective three-year analysis of data from a general practice,” appears in Schmerz. Additional information is available from NORML’s fact sheet, ‘Relationship Between Marijuana and Opioids.’

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Study In Italy Finds That Patients Successfully Replace Opioids With Cannabis

It is estimated that roughly 1 out of every 5 people on earth suffers from chronic pain, with the likeliness of someone having the condition increasing with age. The rate of people over the age of 65 that suffer from chronic pain is as high as 85% according to at least one study.

Chronic pain is defined as being ongoing and lastly over 6 months, and can be caused by any number of factors. For some patients, chronic pain is a symptom of another condition, such as cancer. For others, its the result of an injury or accident.

Whatever the cause, chronic pain can be very tough to deal with. In some cases, it can be extremely debilitating and interfere with virtually every aspect of daily life. To make matters worse, when pain patients go to their doctor they are almost always met with one form of recommended treatment – opioids.

It is always worth mentioning that just because someone takes opioids, they shouldn’t be shamed for doing so. For some patients, it’s their only option, and for many other patients, it’s effective for their specific situation. Just as people shouldn’t be subjected to negative stigma for using cannabis, so too should they never be subjected to negative stigma for using opioids or any other medicine for that matter.

With that being said, cannabis is exponentially safer than opioids, and according to a new study many patients are reducing their reliance on opioids after starting medical cannabis treatment. Below is more information about it via a news release from NORML:

Milan, Italy: The long-term use of plant-derived cannabis extracts by patients with chronic pain is associated with reduced reliance on prescription opioids, according to data published in the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences.

A team of Italian researchers assessed the use of prescription opioids and other medicines in a cohort of chronic patients in the six months immediately prior to and immediately following their initiation of medical cannabis.

Authors reported that a significant percentage of subjects ceased their use of prescription opioids by the conclusion of the trial. They concluded, “Analyses by subgroups showed a statistically significant difference in the proportion of female opioid non-users before and after cannabis-based oil treatment (34.1 percent to 56.1 percent), as well as in the proportion of under-65 years old opioid non-users before and after cannabis-based oil treatment (32.5 percent to 55 percent), in the proportion of opioid non-users with non-severe comorbidity (33.3 percent to 54.2 percent), and … in the proportion of opioid non-users with a chronic pain condition (32.6 percent to 59.2 percent).”

The findings are consistent with dozens of other studies showing that pain patients typically reduce or eliminate their use of prescription opioids following the use of cannabis. Inconsistent with prior studies, authors did not identify an association between medical cannabis use and a significant reduction in patients’ use of other prescription drugs, including benzodiazepines.

Full text of the study, “Long-term cannabis-based oil therapy and pain medications prescribing patterns: An Italian observational study,” appears in European Review for Medical and Pharmacological SciencesAdditional information is available from the NORML fact sheet, ‘Relationship Between Marijuana and Opioids.’ Information on cannabis in the treatment of chronic pain is available from NORML.

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Sativex Associated With Opioid-Sparing Effects

In a perfect world, every suffering patient that could benefit from the cannabis plant would have safe access to it in all of its forms. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world.

In a less-than-perfect world, patients are at the mercy of what medical cannabis products are legally available in their area. Sativex is one option that is available in places that prohibit most, if not all, other forms of medical cannabis products.

A recent study found that Sativex may reduce opioid consumption rates among pain patients. It is worth noting that shaming people that have to use opioids for whatever reason is not OK.

With that being said, cannabis is absolutely safer than opioids so anyone that can transition from opioids to cannabis is a good thing. Below is more information about the recent study via a news release from NORML:

Oslo, Norway: Prescription opioid users who frequently consume the cannabis plant-derived extract medication Sativex (nabiximols) substantially reduce their opioid intake over time, according to data published in the journal Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Technology.

Sativex is an oromucosal cannabis spray containing nearly equal portions of plant-derived THC and CBD. It is available by prescription in numerous countries, but it is not FDA-approved in the United States.

A team of researchers affiliated with the Norwegian Institute of Public Health assessed the relationship between the use of Sativex and opioids over a one-year period in a cohort of patients prescribed both substances.

They reported that those who filled their Sativex prescriptions three times or more during the study period decreased their use of prescription opioids. This decrease “was even more evident among those filling five or more prescriptions.” By contrast, an inverse relationship was identified among those infrequently engaged in the use of Sativex.

Authors concluded: “This is one of a few studies investigating the impact of medicinal cannabis use on individual level opioid use. … Looking at all those filling a prescription for Sativex, opioid use was only marginally lowered in the follow-up period. Some Sativex users, however, filled more prescriptions for Sativex and were able to reduce their opioid use substantially. Further studies are needed to elucidate more details on these patients, so as to know who can benefit from such cannabis-based extracts in reducing their opioid use.”

Numerous studies have previously identified a relationship between patients’ consumption of medical cannabis and a reduction in their use of opioids and other prescription drugs.

Full text of the study, “Possible opioid-saving effect of cannabis-based medicine using individual-based data from the Norwegian Prescription Database,” appears in Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology. Additional information is available from NORML’s fact sheet, “Relationship Between Marijuana and Opioids.”

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