THURSDAY, Oct. 8, 2020 — People using cannabis for pain may still be taking opioid painkillers, a new study suggests.
Researchers looked at cannabis and nonprescription opioid use among 211 individuals in the New York City area. Over 90 days, the investigators found that opioid use was at least as high when cannabis was used as when it wasn’t, regardless of participants’ pain levels.
“Our study is among the first to test opioid substitution directly, suggesting that cannabis seldom serves as a substitute for nonmedical opioids among opioid-using adults, even among those who report experiencing moderate or more severe pain,” said researcher Deborah Hasin. She’s a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University in New York City.
“In other words, our study suggests that cannabis is not an effective way to limit nonmedical opioid use,” Hasin added in a news release from the Society for the Study of Addiction.
In 2017, more than 2 million Americans suffered from opioid addiction, and more than 70,000 died from the painkillers, the researchers pointed out in background notes.
Opioid use — including nonmedical use of prescription opioids, synthetic opioids and heroin — is the main cause of overdose deaths. How cannabis may change nonmedical opioid use is critical to understanding how cannabis-based interventions can affect the opioid crisis, the researchers said.
The report was published Oct. 8 in the journal Addiction.
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