Medical cannabis could be a viable substitute for effective, but highly-addictive, opioids often used for pain relief, a new survey suggests, as researchers continue to explore the potential health benefits of cannabis amid a growing national opioid crisis.
Roughly 90% of more than 2,100 participants in the survey published on Wednesday in the journal Substance Use & Misuse said cannabis was “very” or “extremely” helpful in treating medical conditions, including anxiety, chronic pain, depression, insomnia and post-traumatic stress disorder, while 88.7% said it was important to their quality of life.
Of the more than three-fifths of the participants in the survey who had been taking opioids—including oxycodone and codeine—before they were prescribed medical cannabis, 79% were able to stop or reduce the use of them once they started using medical cannabis.
Nearly 86% said it helped reduce pain, and 84% said their pain was not interfering with normal social activities as much as it was before they started taking medical marijuana.
The biggest side-effects, according to the researchers at Emerald Coast Research and the Florida State University College of Medicine, were dry mouth, increased appetite and drowsiness.
70,168. That’s how many people died of opioid-related overdoses in the United States in 2020, a 37% increase from the year before, according to a report in the Lancet. Prescription and non-prescription opioid deaths have increased by more than eight times in the U.S. from 1999 to 2020, with more than 550,000 deaths over the 21-year period, according to the study.
Despite a growing push toward legalization, recent studies have found increased use could come with negative effects. A study published in June in BMJ Open Respiratory Research found that people who use recreational marijuana have a higher risk of being admitted to a hospital, with the most common causes of emergency room visits being acute trauma and respiratory problems—although researchers were reluctant to assume causation.
By Brian Bushard, Forbes Staff