Vast Majority of Pain Patients Prefer Cannabis to Opioids, Study Finds

Published on June 28, 2017 · Last updated July 28, 2020
This photo was taken from the top of Sather Tower on UC Berkeley campus.

A newly released survey of nearly 3,000 medical cannabis patients found that nearly all respondents said they could reduce their opioid consumption after adding cannabis to their treatment regimen, and a vast majority preferred cannabis to prescription pills.

In a survey of its patients, the medical cannabis community website HelloMD asked a wide range of questions examining the use of cannabis as a substitute for opioid and non-opioid based pain medication. The study, conducted in cooperation with University of California Berkeley, was led by researchers Amanda Reiman and Mark A. Welty.

Among the key findings, 97% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they could decrease their use of opioid painkillers when consuming cannabis. And 92% said that they agreed or strongly agreed that they prefer cannabis to treat their medical condition.

Strikingly, 81% agreed or strongly agreed that cannabis alone was more effective than taking cannabis with opioids. This result was similar when patients were asked about consuming cannabis with non-opioid-based pain medication.

According to Reiman, cannabis could help with pain problems in patients who don’t want to take addictive opioid medications.

“The treatment of pain has become a politicized business in the United States. The result has been the rapidly rising rate of opioid related overdoses and dependence,” she said. “Cannabis has been used throughout the world for thousands of years to treat pain and other physical and mental health conditions.”

Reiman added that she has been hearing anecdotal evidence from patients for years.

“Patients have been telling us for decades that this practice is producing better outcomes than the use of opioid-based medications,” she said. “It’s past time for the medical profession to get over their reefer madness and start working with the medical cannabis movement and industry to slow down the destruction being caused by the over prescribing and overuse of opioids.”

Dr. Perry Solomon, chief medical officer for HelloMD, agreed Reiman’s take.

“The latest publication from the National Academy of Sciences clearly refuted the ‘gateway drug’ theory that using marijuana can lead to opioid addiction, instead finding evidence of cannabis having multiple curative benefits,” he said. “Our study further substantiates this. Hopefully this will awaken the public, medical professionals and legislatures to the fact that cannabis is a safe, non-addictive product, available to help fight the opioid epidemic.”

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Gage Peake
Gage Peake
Gage Peake is a former staff writer for Leafly, where he specialized in data journalism, sports, and breaking news coverage. He's a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's College of Journalism and Mass Communications.
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