Study Finds Medical Marijuana to be Equally Effective as Opioids for Pain Management with a Lower Incidence of Adverse Events

Study Finds Medical Marijuana to be Equally Effective as Opioids for Pain Management with a Lower Incidence of Adverse EventsA new study published in the journal BMJ Open has found that medical marijuana may be an effective treatment for chronic non-cancer pain, comparable to opioids but with fewer adverse events. The study compared the effects of opioids, medical marijuana, and placebos in 22,028 participants across 90 randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Of these trials, 84 were included in the qualitative analysis.

Chronic pain affects approximately 20% of people globally and is commonly treated with opioids. The study found moderate evidence that opioids provide small improvements in pain, while marijuana had similarly positive effects with low to moderate certainty evidence. The review suggests that both opioids and cannabis for medical use may provide benefits for a minority of chronic pain patients.

One advantage of medical marijuana over opioids is its lack of respiratory depression, which can lead to non-fatal or fatal overdose. The study also found that participants using opioids were more likely to quit treatment due to negative effects compared to those using medical marijuana.

The study noted that more research is needed to fully understand the effectiveness of medical marijuana for chronic non-cancer pain. None of the 24 medical marijuana trials included in the review administered inhaled forms of cannabis, and no smoking-related studies were included due to inadequate follow-up duration.

The researchers had to indirectly compare the effects of opioids and cannabis since there was only one trial directly comparing both interventions for chronic pain. Additionally, most of the trials included in the analysis were judged to be at high risk of bias for at least one domain.

Despite these limitations, a growing body of research suggests that cannabinoids can help ease pain and provide benefits over opioids. Previous studies have shown that marijuana and opioids are “equally efficacious” at mitigating pain intensity, but marijuana offers additional relief such as improved sleep, focus, and emotional wellbeing.

Other studies have also found that pure CBD can alleviate acute dental pain as effectively as an opioid formula commonly used in dentistry. Medical marijuana use has been linked to lower pain levels and reduced dependence on opioids and other prescription medications.

The findings of this study add to the growing evidence supporting the use of medical marijuana for chronic pain management. However, further research is needed to fully understand its effectiveness and potential side effects. A forthcoming research project from Johns Hopkins University aims to track 10,000 medical marijuana patients over a year or more to gather data on dosing, delivery methods, and other treatment details. This research could provide valuable insights into the efficacy and impacts of cannabis therapy.

In conclusion, medical marijuana may offer comparable relief for chronic non-cancer pain with fewer adverse events compared to opioids. While this study provides promising findings, more research is needed to fully understand the effectiveness and potential risks of medical marijuana as a treatment option.

Dr. Paul Miller, MD

Dr. Miller is committed to finding new and innovative ways to help his patients manage their symptoms and improve their overall quality of life. He has a particular interest in the therapeutic potential of medical cannabis and is passionate about educating both his colleagues and patients on its safe and effective use. He is also committed to continuing his education and staying up-to-date on the latest advances in neurology and cannabis research.

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