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Daily Cannabis Use Tied to Lower Illicit Opioid Use for Chronic Pain

Findings based on longitudinal study in Canada of people who use drugs and report chronic pain

THURSDAY, Dec. 5, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Individuals with chronic pain who use daily cannabis have lower odds of using illicit opioids, according to a Canadian study published online Nov. 19 in PLOS Medicine.

Stephanie Lake, from University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, and colleagues analyzed data from 1,152 adults in two prospective cohorts of people who use drugs (PWUD; 36.8 percent female; median age at baseline, 49.3 years) who reported major or persistent pain (June 1, 2014, to Dec. 1, 2017). The longitudinal association between frequency of cannabis use and illicit opioid use was investigated.

The researchers found that 40 percent of participants reported daily illicit opioid use and 36 percent reported daily cannabis use during at least one six-month follow-up period. Pain (36 percent), sleep (35 percent), stress (31 percent), and nausea (30 percent) were the most commonly reported therapeutic reasons for cannabis use. Daily cannabis use was associated with significantly lower odds of daily illicit opioid use (adjusted odds ratio, 0.5) after adjusting for demographic characteristics, substance use, and health-related factors.

“These findings provide longitudinal observational evidence that cannabis may serve as an adjunct to or substitute for illicit opioid use among PWUD with chronic pain,” the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the cannabis industry.

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