Medical Marijuana Can Treat Chronic Pain and Reduce Opiate Use

Medical Marijuana Can Treat Chronic Pain and Reduce Opiate Dependence


Many studies have been published recently showing a relationship between the legalization use of medical marijuana and a drop in opioid use and addiction.


In addiction treatment, the substitution of one drug for another is called harm reduction.  The opioid epidemic in the United States is at an all time high due to the addictive qualities inherent in opiate use.  When lighter drugs prescribed in place of opiates under a doctor’s care are used to control chronic pain, patients have successfully recovered from their opiate addiction without being forced to remain in pain.  In New York State, the medical cannabis program trains its physicians to slowly decrease opiate use in their chronic pain patients as they substitute increasing doses of medical cannabis to keep pain at bay.  In this manner, the body stays healthier.  Multiple studies link opiate use to overdose and death, but it is hard to find any numbers or personal stories where a person has died from cannabis use alone.  This is the core principle of harm reduction. 


Most studies of medical marijuana are conducted in Canada, where cannabis has been legalized and can therefore be studied more easily.  Here are what a few of these studies have show us about how medical marijuana can be used to treat chronic pain while putting an end to the devastation of the opiate epidemic.


A study was published in 2021 demonstrating a 71% drop in nonfatal opioid overdoses in patients who used methadone and cannabis in conjunction as treatment for addiction.


Another study was published in 2021 in BMJ, showing an association between storefront dispensaries and opioid related mortality - the more available cannabis was made to the public, the fewer opioid deaths were reported.


A third study was recently published in BMC Public Health studied 5373 medical cannabis patients who worked to decrease their opiate doses used for chronic pain.  This study showed a statistically significant drop in the opiate doses used by medical cannabis patients. 


House Bill 1535 has recently passed in the Texas House of Representative.  This bill expands the current Texas Compassionate Use Program (known as T.CUP) to include the treatment of chronic pain. 


The doctors at Compassionate Telemedicine fully support this bill in the hopes that it can help reduce suffering for the many patients with chronic pain.  These patients are currently very restricted in their doses of opiates as a result of its addictive potential, which leaves their pain untreated and restricts their ability to participate in physical rehabilitation and other daily activities.  Medical cannabis treats chronic pain as well as opiates - and in many cases is superior to opiate pain control for conditions like neuropathic and spastic pain. 

Dr. Allison Kendrick

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