The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY)
State DOH: Medical cannabis may reduce opioid burden in managing chronic pain
The New York State Department of Health recently announced its latest multi-agency study detailing the association of receiving medical cannabis for 30 days or longer with a reduction in prescription opioid dosages has been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Network Open.
The results of the peer-reviewed study, Changes in Prescribed Opioid Dosages Among Patients Receiving Medical Cannabis for Chronic Pain, New York State, 2017-2019, in combination with existing evidence, show that managing chronic pain with medical cannabis may reduce the opioid burden.
This may, in turn, reduce the risk of illicit use and overdose for patients on long-term opioid therapy.
“Medical cannabis is increasingly being used as a treatment in pain management and this peer-reviewed study is further evidence that medical cannabis has the potential to reduce the amount of opioid-based medications needed to treat chronic pain.” Acting Health Commissioner Dr. James Mcdonald said in a press release. “I applaud the work done by members of the Department, as well as the Office of Cannabis Management and CUNY.
“These findings have the potential to further inform health providers and policymakers here in New York as well as in other jurisdictions where medical cannabis is not yet legalized or used to its fullest potential.”
In this study, published in the JAMA Network Open’s Jan. 30 issue, Department researchers and colleagues from the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy and the New York State Office of Cannabis Management analyzed data for more than eight thousand adult New Yorkers from 2017-2019 and concluded that receiving 30 days or more of medical cannabis for chronic pain is associated with a reduction in dosages of prescription opioids among patients who
“Medical cannabis is increasingly being used as a treatment in pain management and this peer-reviewed study is further evidence that medical cannabis has the potential to reduce the amount of opioidbased medications needed to treat chronic pain.” — Acting Health Commissioner Dr. James Mcdonald
were on long-term opioid treatment.
The study found that those who were on higher baseline dosages of prescription opioids (when they started receiving medical cannabis) saw a larger reduction in prescription dosages after eight months, upwards of 51 percent for individuals on the highest baseline dosages of prescription opioids.
“This study found meaningful reductions among patients receiving medical cannabis for 30 days or longer. Patients’ daily opioid dosages were reduced by 47% to 51% of the baseline dosages after 8 months. In contrast, patients receiving medical cannabis for a shorter duration reduced their initial dosages by just 4% to 14%,” Lead study author Dr. Trang Nguyen of the Department of Health said.
“These findings have important implications for clinicians and policy makers. Previous research has shown that abrupt disruption in opioid prescriptions among patients on longterm opioid therapy and high dosages can lead to patients’ use of illicit drugs, overdose, and self-harm. Our study suggests a more humane option for achieving lower prescription dosages and potentially reducing those risks. Equitable implementation of these findings will require addressing disparities in both access to medical cannabis due to high cost and the high rate of patients receiving long-term opioid therapy in Medicaid and other programs,” Co-author Dr. Danielle Greene of CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy noted.
“Since the inception of the Medical Cannabis Program in New York State, we’ve heard anecdotal evidence from patients, caregivers and health care providers suggesting that medical cannabis can reduce the amount of opioids patients take to manage pain — and now we have the study demonstrating a statistically and clinically significant reduction for those patients who were on medical cannabis for a longer duration. Research is critical to further our knowledge of the potential risks and benefits of cannabis and the OCM will be continuing efforts to promote cannabis knowledge and research in New York State,” Co-author Nicole Quackenbush of the NYS Office of Cannabis Management added.