There is plenty that we don’t know about cannabis as a pain management treatment. But one thing we do know is that people who rely on it to help manage chronic pain use other prescription medications less frequently. And now we have yet another study proving the point.
This latest study was recently published in a German medical journal known as Schmerz. The researchers behind the study looked at marijuana’s efficacy as a pain treatment among 187 patients. The results were incredibly positive.
Cannabis vs. Prescription Painkillers
If you follow medical cannabis news, you probably already know where this post is going. Cannabis advocates have long contended that chronic pain patients who successfully manage their pain with cannabis are less likely to use prescription painkillers. Advocates are usually armed with plenty of anecdotal evidence in support of the position.
Even without clinical evidence, the anecdotal stories make a ton of sense. Why take a prescription opioid – a drug known to cause problems for so many patients – if medical cannabis works for you? The same goes for recreational marijuana, even though it might be less potent. If it works, it works.
So many cannabis users who formerly used prescription painkillers have nothing good to say about them. They do have plenty to say about how prescription painkillers made them feel. And almost to the person, they say they are happy to be off those other drugs. They give the credit to cannabis.
Still the Chief Complaint
Chronic pain management remains the chief complaint among people who apply for medical cannabis cards. It is certainly the number one cited condition in Utah, according to the medical experts at Utah Marijuana. Their medical staff say that they routinely hear from patients that medical cannabis does a much better job without all the negative side effects that come with prescription painkillers.
If Utah patients are saying that, it stands to reason that chronic pain patients around the country would have a similar experience. If we combine that reality with the fact that pain is still the chief complaint among medical cannabis users, it leads to a shocking realization: the key to finally bringing an end to the opioid crisis might very well lie in prescribing cannabis instead.
The Majority Reported Relief
Getting back to the German study, the results were remarkable. More than 88% of the patients reported either moderate or significant improvement in their conditions after using cannabis. Here are some specific numbers:
- 61% reported substantial pain relief
- 66% reported improved sleep
- 34% reported improvement in mental well-being
- 65% stopped using opioids
- 60% stopped using antidepressants
- 58% stopped using anticonvulsant medications.
The important thing to remember here is that opioid painkillers are not the only type of prescription drugs doctors prescribe for pain management. They also prescribe antidepressants and anticonvulsants when there are concerns with opioids. Regardless, the German patients reduced the use of all three classes of drugs once they began treating their pain with cannabis.
Even though the study is considered a small-scale study, its results are hard to argue. It’s true the study does not attempt to explain the mechanism behind how cannabis might alleviate pain. But that was never the point. The point was to learn whether patients experience genuine pain relief after using cannabis. The vast majority of the patients in this study did.
Cannabis advocates have long maintained that prescribing cannabis can lead to chronic pain patients consuming fewer prescription painkillers. This latest study only adds to a mountain of evidence proving as much. Just throw it on the pile.