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High on Healing: How Cannabis is Substituting Traditional Pain Medications

Looks like chronic pain patients have found a new best bud in marijuana! According to a new study by the American Medical Association (AMA), one in three chronic pain patients are ditching traditional pain meds for the green stuff.

Researchers from the University of Michigan and Johns Hopkins University found that more than half of adults who used cannabis to manage their chronic pain reported decreasing their use of prescription opioids, non-opioid prescriptions, and over-the-counter pain medications.

The latest research from the University of Michigan and Johns Hopkins University is adding to the growing evidence that cannabinoids can be a game-changer for managing pain. Not only do they work as effective pain management tools, but also as a substitute for certain pharmaceuticals, making them a natural choice for many patients.

The study, recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Substance Use And Addiction, took a deep dive into the habits of 1,724 adults aged 18 and above living in 36 states plus Washington D.C. The data was collected between March and April 2022 and analyzed by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) AmeriSpeak panel, giving a comprehensive look at the use of cannabis among chronic pain patients.

"The study found that a majority of adults who turned to cannabis to manage chronic pain reported that it helped them decrease their use of prescription opioids, non-opioid prescription, and over-the-counter pain medications. In fact, less than 1% said that cannabis actually increased their use of these medications. These findings were reported in the research paper which received funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The high number of patients substituting cannabis for both opioid and non-opioid treatments highlights the need for further research to understand the full benefits and potential risks of cannabis as a pain management option. The findings of the study suggest that the legalization of cannabis in certain states has made it easier for patients to access it as a treatment option, despite the lack of comprehensive knowledge about its use as a medical treatment for pain.

NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano acknowledged the findings of the study and highlighted in a recent blog post that cannabis has already proven to be effective in treating various conditions, particularly chronic pain, and it has a safety profile that is either equal to or better than other controlled substances.

Paul Armentano, also stated in the same blog post that it's not surprising that patients with legal access to cannabis are choosing it over other substances that may be less effective or more harmful. He predicts that as access to cannabis continues to expand, this trend of substituting cannabis will become even more prevalent in the future.

Another study by AMA found that states that have legalized medical marijuana have seen a significant drop in the number of opioid prescriptions and usage among cancer patients. A study released in September also came to a similar conclusion, showing that legal access to medical cannabis can assist patients in reducing or completely stopping the use of opioid painkillers without affecting their quality of life.

A study in the same month also found that the pharmaceutical industry suffers significant economic loss following the legalization of marijuana in states, with an average loss of around $10 billion for drug manufacturers per legalization event. There is a wealth of anecdotal evidence, observational data, and studies that have shown that cannabis is being used as an alternative to traditional pharmaceutical drugs such as opioids and sleep medications.

So next time you're feeling the pain, maybe skip the pills and spark one up instead!

Just remember, state laws still apply.


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Hmmmm.. if you're talking about the JAMA article of 06 Jan 2023, this is what the summary said:

"Most states have enacted laws allowing individuals to treat chronic pain with cannabis.1 Evidence is mixed about whether medical cannabis serves as a substitute for prescription opioids or other pain treatments.2,3 Accurate estimates of cannabis use or its substitution in place of pain treatments among adults with chronic noncancer pain are, to our knowledge, not available.4"

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