New Mexico has been home to a number of exciting cannabis studies. In 2014, they were the first state to release a study on the “effects of cannabis on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms,” as they were the first state to list PTSD as a condition that can be treated with cannabis. So it’s unsurprising that in this pioneering state, despite having just started their research in August of 2016, The University of New Mexico (UNM), already produced a study with positive implications for the cannabis industry as a whole. The recently released study seems to suggest having legal access to cannabis reduces your chances of using addictive, potentially fatal opioid prescription painkillers. So all that talk about cannabis being a gateway drug may not just be false, but actually the opposite of the truth.
The study released by UNM compared 83 patients suffering from chronic pain, who enrolled in the cannabis study from April 2010 to October 2015, to 42 patients not treated with cannabis, over a 24 month period. The results were promising for those hoping cannabis may be a valid option for treating chronic pain. Of the patients enrolled in the cannabis study 34 percent stopped using scheduled prescription medications altogether in the last six months of the study, compared to just two percent of those not in the cannabis study. That means over a third of patients who were previously unable to get through their day with opioid painkillers, were able to use cannabis to treat their pain instead.
The study, titled “Effects of Legal Access to Cannabis on Scheduled II-V Drug Prescriptions,” was authored by UNM faculty Jacob Miguel Vigil, Sarah See Stith, I. M Adams, and Dr. Anthony Reeve. Jacob Vigil is the Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at UNM, and the senior author of the study. Vigil released a statement regarding the results of the study, and the possible implications. “Our current opioid epidemic is the leading preventable form of death in the United States, killing more people than car accidents and gun violence,” Vigil wrote. “No one has ever died from smoking too much cannabis. Therefore, the relative safety and efficacy of using cannabis in comparison to that of the other scheduled medications should be taken by the health providers and legislators, and may very well to have been considered by the patients in our study.”
While more research is needed before anyone can conclusively claim cannabis can reduce opioid use, this is certainly a hopeful sign. As more research comes to the surface about using cannabis to treat chronic pain, hopefully we can do more to help those suffering. And offer pain management options that don’t render you hopelessly addicted for life.