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Study finds patients choosing cannabis over opioids

Research shows people with chronic pain or mental health issues prefer taking cannabis over prescription opioid medications to treat symptoms.

By Amy Wallace
Study finds patients choosing cannabis over opioids
A Canadian study has found that patients prefer cannabis to prescription opioid medication for chronic pain, mental health and gastrointestinal issues. Photo by Atomazul/Shutterstock

Feb. 27 (UPI) -- Researchers from the University of British Columbia and the University of Victoria have found patients prefer cannabis over opioid medication to treat chronic pain and mental health issues.

"This study is one of the first to track medical cannabis use under the new system of licensed producers, meaning that all participants had physician authorization to access cannabis in addition to their prescription medicines," Associate Professor Zach Walsh of UBC and co-author of the study, said in a press release.

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Researchers studied more than 250 patients registered to purchase cannabis from Tilray, a federally licensed producer, with prescribed medical cannabis for the treatment of chronic pain, mental health and gastrointestinal issues. Participants responded to an online survey on cannabis use.

Results showed nearly 63 percent of patients reported using cannabis instead of their prescription medication, which included opioids, sedatives and anti-depressants.

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Results showed the main reason for the preferred use of cannabis over opioid medications was due to the reduced side effects, better symptom management and a feeling that cannabis is safer.

"Further research into how well cannabis works compared to the accepted front-line treatments is warranted," Walsh said. "Additionally, long-term research into the potential impact of the cannabis substitution on the quality of patient's lives is ongoing."

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The study was lead by Phillippe Lucas, a graduate fellow at the University of Victoria Center for Addictions Research of British Columbia and vice president of Patient Research and Access at Tilray, a federally authorized medical cannabis production company.

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The study was published in the International Journal of Drug Policy.

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