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Chronic pain patients in New York were able to cut down on their use of prescription opioids when switching to medical marijuana, according to a study released Monday by the American Medical Association and published on the JAMA Network Open.
The study, compiled by researchers with the New York Department of Health and published by the American Medical Association, looked at New York’s Prescription Monitoring Program data between 2017 and 2019 involving 8,165 chronic pain patients.
The findings showed that those patients who were using medical marijuana for a longer period of time were able to wean their dependence on prescription opioids, and that higher opioid dosages were associated with large reductions in use.
“These findings contribute evidence toward potential clinical benefits of medical cannabis in reducing prescription opioid intake, which may decrease patients’ risk of opioid overdose,” the researchers wrote.
The study says that patients being treated for chronic pain with long-term opioid therapy are at a higher risk of developing opioid use disorder and potential overdose, proving the need for “alternative companion treatments” such as medical cannabis.
The researchers spent eight months studying individuals who made up the study sample and analyzed data from November 2021 to February 2022.
They noted that very few studies in the country so far have assessed changes in opioid dosages among medical marijuana pain patients.
The study involved two exposure groups: one made up of patients receiving medical marijuana for 30 days or less and the other made up of individuals using medical marijuana for more than 30 days.
The researchers concluded that those patients receiving medical marijuana for longer durations used less amounts of opioids, with those using medical marijuana for more than 30 days showing an opioid amount reduction by nearly half.
Another study with similar findings was published on Jan. 18 in the research journal Health Economics.
That study, previously reported by Business Insurance, found that prescriptions for the opioid codeine have decreased in states that offer legal medical marijuana for chronic pain patients.