New study bolsters the case for a familiar, non-opioid chronic pain medication

SAFED, ISRAEL - MARCH 07: (ISRAEL OUT) A worker at a cannabis greenhouse at the growing facility of the Tikun Olam company on March 7, 2011 near the northern city of Safed, Israel. In conjunction with Israel's Health Ministry, Tikon Olam are currently distributing cannabis for medicinal purposes to over 1800 people in Israel. (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

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A new study released by University of New Mexico researchers concludes that cannabis could be a ready alternative for pain management patients, with the side effect of curbing addiction and overdose deaths caused by powerful prescription pills, of which patients often take multiple varieties.

“The potential for addiction and health risks associated with using multiple scheduled drugs places additional direct monetary and health costs on patients and healthcare systems,” said University of New Mexico researchers Jacob Miguel Vigil and Sarah See Stith.

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The study, “Effects of Legal Access to Cannabis on Scheduled II-V Drug Prescriptions,” surveyed 125 chronic pain patients, 83 of whom were enrolled in the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program. Forty-two patients participating in the Prescription Monitoring program served as the control group.

Cannabis-using patients were studied for more than five years; control patients in the Prescription Monitoring program were studied for a minimum of two years.

The university hypothesized that “legal access to cannabis may reduce the use of multiple classes of dangerous prescription medications in certain patient populations,” according to a release accompanying the study results.

In practice, researchers found that 34 percent of participants in the Medical Cannabis program “ceased the use of all scheduled prescription medications” within the final six months of the observation period. Just one participant in the Prescription Monitoring group (2 percent of that group) did the same.

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