HomeNewsStudy: Medical Marijuana Legalization and Opioid Use In Cancer Patients

Study: Medical Marijuana Legalization and Opioid Use In Cancer Patients

A study looking at medical marijuana legalization in the USA and its impact on opioid-related and pain-related outcomes revealed some interesting results.

The cross-sectional study looked at records of tens of thousands of patients newly diagnosed with either breast, colorectal or lung cancer who were receiving anticancer treatment and lived in one of 34 states where medical marijuana wasn’t legal before January 2021.

It found medical marijuana legalization that took effect among these states between 2012 and 2017 was associated with a 5.5% to 19.2% relative reduction in the rate of opioid dispensing – a significant drop. Medical marijuana legalization was also associated with a reduction in the rate of one or more pain-related hospital events; from 19.3% to 13.0% – again, a significant reduction.

The researchers suggest medical marijuana could be serving as a substitute for opioid therapies among some adult patients receiving cancer treatment, and:

“The nature of these associations and their implications for patient safety and quality of life need to be further investigated.”

The use of opioids generally remains a hot topic in the USA where abuse and dependence has reached epidemic proportions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); opioids were involved in 68,630 overdose deaths in 2020; accounting for 74.8% of all drug overdose deaths.

While supervised, responsible medical use and abuse are entirely different things – particularly when it comes to managing serious conditions – the statistics suggest one can evolve, or devolve,  into the other; creating a new set of problems to contend with in terms of tolerance, dependence and overdose. And that’s where medical marijuana may have some potential; offering an alternative to opioids for cancer and other patients that may not be as problematic.

But as the researchers note, more research is needed on the safety and quality of life front. The study was published in the journal Jama Oncology, an abstract of which can be found here.

On a related note, a study published in 2021 indicated 42% of breast cancer patients reported using cannabis for relief of symptoms. Among that group, 75% reported it was “extremely” or “very helpful”. The most common symptoms being addressed were pain, anxiety, insomnia, and nausea/vomiting.

Gillian Jalimnson
Gillian Jalimnson is one of Hemp Gazette's staff writers and has been with us since we kicked off in 2015. Gillian sees massive potential for cannabis in areas of health, energy, building and personal care products and is intrigued by the potential for cannabidiol (CBD) as an alternative to conventional treatments. You can contact Gillian here.

Most Popular