By Pat Anson, Editor
A survey of nearly 3,000 medical marijuana users has found that 9 out of 10 patients prefer cannabis over opioid medication when managing their chronic pain. A similar number prefer cannabis over non-opioid pain relievers such as Tylenol or Advil.
The survey was conducted by researchers at the University of California Berkeley and HelloMD, a website that links patients to doctors in California and New York that prescribe medical marijuana. The survey was administered by email to a HelloMD database of cannabis patients who were asked how marijuana affected their consumption of opioids and other pain relievers.
Eighty percent of those surveyed said that cannabis was more effective at relieving pain than opioid medication and 97 percent said they decreased their opioid use when using cannabis. The latter finding supports previous research that found use of prescription pain medication declining in states where medical marijuana is legal.
“The results of our study were striking, showing 97% of people were able to decrease the amount of opioids that they used in conjunction with cannabis use. This was more than double the amount shown in any previous studies conducted,” said Perry Solomon, MD, Chief Medical Officer of HelloMD.
“The (study) clearly showed that chronic pain is one of the medical conditions that cannabis can be used for with great efficacy. Our study not only supports this but also goes further in that the clear majority of patient’s state that they prefer it. Hopefully this will awaken the public, medical professionals and legislatures to the fact that there is a safe, non-addictive product available to help fight the opioid epidemic, and that is cannabis.”
Other key findings from the survey of medical marijuana users:
- 93% said they prefer cannabis to opioids
- 92% said cannabis' side effects were more tolerable than side effects from opioids
- 90% said cannabis works well with non-opioid pain relievers
- 96% said they need fewer non-opioid pain relievers when using cannabis
- 89% said cannabis was more effective than non-opioid pain relievers
"With cannabis not only becoming more accepted in the mainstream but also coming in a variety of preparations, some of which are nonintoxicating, more people are looking at cannabis as a viable treatment for everyday ailments such as muscle soreness and inflammation,” wrote Amanda Reiman, PhD, of UC Berkeley and the Drug Policy Alliance, lead author of the study published in the journal of Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.
“Participants in this study overwhelmingly supported the notion that they would be more likely to use cannabis as a substitute for pain medication if it were less stigmatized and more available, suggesting that there are populations of people who could benefit from this practice but are shying away due to the stigma and legal restrictions related to cannabis use.”
The survey should not be considered a scientific study on the effectiveness of cannabis, because participants were self-selected and reported their perceptions about cannabis use, as opposed to an objective measurement by a third party. There was also no control group of pain patients who only had access to opioids and other pain relievers.
A small study last year by the University of Michigan found that nearly two-thirds (64%) of medical marijuana patients reported a reduction in their use of prescription pain medications.
A 2014 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that opioid overdoses declined by nearly 25 percent in states where medical marijuana was legalized.