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Study Suggests That Chronic Back Pain Patients Prefer Cannabis Over Opioids

Published November 20, 2017
| Written By SpineNation Editorial Staff  

Did you know that 130 people die every 24 hours in the United States alone from an opioid overdose, according to reports from the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

Amanda Reiman, Ph.D., MSW, a professor at the University of California, published, Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research that examined the use of cannabis as a substitute for opioid-based pain medication. Reiman and her team compiled data by emailing a survey to 2,810 chronic back pain patients who use medical marijuana for pain relief.

The Details

Of the 2,810 surveyed, 828 patients revealed that they were also prescribed painkillers.

Out of those participants, "97 percent of the sample 'strongly agreed/agreed' that they are able to decrease the number of opioids they consume when they also use cannabis.”

In addition, “89 percent 'strongly agreed/agreed' that taking opioids produces unwanted side effects such as constipation and nausea," Reiman and her team wrote.

The researchers also unveiled that the chronic back pain patients in this medical study who consume cannabis, as well as opioids, say they need fewer pills to relieve their symptoms because cannabis offers less unwanted negative side effects as compared to their opioid-based medications.

Taking an opioid pill.Caption: Common side effects of opioid consumption include sedation, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, constipation, physical dependence, tolerance, and respiratory depression. Physical dependence and addiction are clinical concerns that may prevent proper prescribing and in turn inadequate pain management.

The Reason

Yes, opioids have always played a major role in relieving chronic pain, including chronic back or spine pain, however, with the rising epidemic, the medical community and chronic back pain patients alike are searching and studying other options as a replacement for pain management without the risk of addiction or overdose.

Digging a little deeper, 81 percent of these patients 'strongly agreed/agreed' that cannabis serves as a better option for treating their chronic condition as opposed to opioids alone.

"Prescription drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. Opioid alternatives for the treatment of chronic pain are necessary to address this issue," Reiman added.

Skeptics of marijuana doubt its majestic properties since it's still in the same drug class as heroin. Playing devil's advocate, there is actually no data reflecting that anyone has ever died from a marijuana overdose. This because no one has ever overdosed from consuming too much cannabis, according to a report from the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency).

Cannabis indica plantCaption: The legalization of marijuana for medical use is growing in a number of U.S. states. Marijuana itself refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant. The plant contains the mind-altering chemical THC and other similar compounds. 

The Results

It's clear from this medical study that chronic back pain patients are tired of the opioid back and forth. From the results, we see that 97 percent of chronic back pain patients prefer a more holistic approach to healing rather than popping a pill and opening the door to possible addiction —or worse, death.

Updated: June 7, 2021

Information provided within this article is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for medical advice. Those seeking specific medical advice should consult his or her doctor or surgeon. If you need to consult with a specialist, you may be able find a health care provider in our Specialist Finder. SpineNation does not endorse treatments, procedures, products or physicians.

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