Study Indicates Cannabis Safer than Painkillers

Nearly two million Americans are addicted to painkillers, and 16,000 fatally overdosed in 2013. According to a press release Tuesday, researchers at McGill University Health Centre in Montreal found cannabis to be a safer approach to chronic pain. It’s the first time cannabis has been studied for chronic pain in a long-term setting. Research indicates that states with legal medical marijuana have significantly less painkiller overdoses.

The study was conducted at seven pain-management facilities across Canada. Researched compared 215 patients who use cannabis to 216 patients who didn’t use cannabis. Users were given daily cannabis flowers containing 12.5 percent THC from a licensed producer. Patients completed panels of blood tests and were testing for lung function, pain, mood, and cognitive ability. “We found that both groups improved over time,” lead author Dr. Mark Ware said. “But the cannabis users actually improved significantly more than the control group.” The results will be published online in The Journal of Pain in mid October.

“This is the first and largest study of the long term safety of medical cannabis use by patients suffering from chronic pain ever conducted,” Ware stated, “We found that medical cannabis, when used by patients who are experienced users, and as part of a monitored treatment program for chronic pain over one year, appears to have a reasonable safety profile.”

Researchers say the cannabis users involved in the study smoked , vaporized, or consumed an average of 2.5 grams per day. “Our data show that daily cannabis users had no greater risk than non-users (control group) to experience serious adverse events,” said Ware. ”We found no evidence of harmful effects on cognitive function, or blood tests among cannabis consumers and we observed a significant improvement in their levels of pain, symptom distress, mood and quality of life compared to controls.”

Some minor side effects from cannabis were noted such as headache and dizziness. The researchers pointed out that they could not separate negative effects from patients that also smoked tobacco.

“It is important to note the limitations of the study,” adds Dr. Ware. “Patients were self-selected, not randomized, and most were experienced users. So what we are seeing is that it appears to be a relatively safe drug when used by people who have already determined that it helps them. We cannot draw conclusions about safety issues of new cannabis users”.

An study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found states with legal medical marijuana had a 24.8 percent less opioid overdoses. They also found that 60 percent of opioid overdoses come from patients with a legitimate doctor’s prescription. The study also suggests that American doctors are handing out painkillers like candy- painkiller prescriptions for non-cancer pain has doubled in the last decade. Most importantly, opioid death increases correlate neatly with opioid sale increases.

Doctors are waiting for a usable list of possible side effects in order to ethically prescribe cannabis. The longer cannabis is unavailable to patients the more they will continue to use painkillers.