It is important to determine whether cannabis can be used as an alternative or adjunctive treatment for intermittent and chronic prescription opioid users. A long-term study conducted in a Californian doctor’s office revealed an interesting statistic: half of the patients with low back pain stopped using opioids because of cannabis.

In this single-center cannabis medical practice in California, a total of 180 patients who had a primary complaint of low back pain were identified. Of these, 61 were selected because they used prescription opioids. Cannabis recommendations were provided to patients to alleviate their low back pain.

We found that 50.8% were able to stop all opioid use, which took a median of 6.4 years, after excluding two patients who had discontinued opioids using opioid agonists.

For the 29 patients (47.5%) who did not discontinue opioids, 9 (31%) were able to reduce their opioid use, 3 (10%) maintained the same baseline and 17 (59%) increased their use.

Forty-eight percent of patients subjectively felt that cannabis had helped them reduce their opioid use, but this feeling did not predict who had stopped using opioids.

No variables predicted who stopped opioid use, except that those who used higher doses of cannabis were more likely to stop, suggesting that some patients may be able to stop opioid use by using cannabis, particularly those who are dosed at higher levels.

The authors conclude :

In this long-term observational study, cannabis use functioned as an alternative to prescription opioids in just over half of the patients with low back pain and as a complement to reduce use in some chronic opioid users.

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