(HealthDay News) — Medical cannabis may be a viable alternative to opioids for managing pain on both an individual and community level, according to a study published online Sept. 27 in Substance Use & Misuse.
Carolyn E. Pritchett, Ph.D., from Emerald Coast Research in Tallahassee, Florida, and colleagues conducted a survey of 2,183 Florida medical cannabis patients to examine self-reported medical cannabis use, perceptions of health functioning, and changes in opioid pain medication use.
The researchers found that the most common conditions were pain and mental health combined (47.9 percent), mental health (28.9 percent), or pain (9.1 percent). Improvements were reported for the health domains of bodily pain, physical functioning, and social functioning, while limitations due to physical and emotional problems remained unchanged. Most patients said medical cannabis was important to their quality of life. About six in 10 respondents reported using pain medications prior to medical cannabis, and the majority (79 percent) reported either cessation or reduction in pain medication use following initiation of medical cannabis. In addition, 11.5 percent reported improved functioning.
“If there’s the option to instead use a medicine with less harmful side effects, including a lower risk of overdose and death, then it should perhaps be considered,” Pritchett said in a statement. “But more research, including studies that follow patients over time, is needed before substituting opioid painkillers for medical cannabis becomes commonplace.”