Cancer patients are increasingly turning to cannabis instead of opioids

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Opioid use is down in favor of cannabis use by cancer patients, according to research

There is evidence that cannabis could help in the treatment of addiction and chronic pain that often results from dependence on different opioids. Since the legalization of medical marijuana started to become a trend in different states of the country, cancer patients have found a more effective and safer solution. It is no secret that opioid addiction can lead to fatal consequences, but medical cannabis has managed to leave that in the past, according to a study.

The opioid overdose epidemic is the most serious public health crisis in the US since the emergence of HIV in the 1980s. It began with the overprescribing of high-potency painkillers and skyrocketed with the emergence of new illicit drugs such as fentanyl. Experts now agree that creative solutions based on scientific evidence must be sought.

Legalization has led researchers to study the potential of cannabis in the treatment of various conditions for which opioids are currently the first or second line of therapy. High-quality clinical research involving marijuana has been held back by its legal status as a banned substance. But a recent review of clinical studies of cannabis-based medicines (including smoked or vaporized marijuana) found much evidence for relief of chronic pain, especially in cancer patients.

The substitution effect is an idea from behavioral economics that describes how the use of one product may decrease when the availability of another increases. Substance abuse researchers have recently adapted this theory to understand the potential for substitution between cannabis and opioids.

The recent study examined more than 38,000 privately insured patients aged 18-64 with a new diagnosis of different types of cancer. The findings were measured by the rate of patients who had “one or more opioid days” and “one or more emergency department visits or pain-related hospitalizations” during the six months following a new cancer diagnosis. A reduction of up to almost 20% in the rate of opioid dispensing was noted due to the legalization of the plant.