If you feel pain in your body (particularly after surgery), you can easily schedule a doctor’s appointment and receive opioid pain relievers. The decision to do so could be lethal, however. Every day in America, approximately 116 people overdose from opioids. Such is a result of 1 in 10 people becoming hooked on the painkillers.
According to a new study published in the European Journal of Internal Medicine, marijuana could help stop opioid dependency even before it starts. The study was led by researchers with Tikun Olam, the largest medical marijuana provider in Israel.
“Cannabis is a very good alternative to reduce opioid consumption, to increase quality of life, and to reduce pain, nausea and vomiting,” said Lihi Bar-Lev Schleider, lead researcher of the study.
As Rolling Stone reports, it was determined that cannabis is most effective in reducing patients’ use of opioid painkillers within six months of initial intake. An expansive collection of anecdotal evidence from Tikun Olam patients was used to prove the efficacy of cannabis.
To obtain medical marijuana in Israel, patients must sign up with one of the country’s eight cannabis companies. They must pay a monthly fee of 370 shekels (or about $100), regardless of how much the patient needs. It is not uncommon for Tikun Olam to routinely collect data from its 2,970 cancer patients. Researchers used this data to determine how cannabis influences patients’ pain, quality of life, symptoms of the disease, and the consumption of other medications.
According to the medical marijuana provider, more than 1,000 of the patients regularly took nearly 4,000 medications together upon intake. Opioids were the most widely used drug. The researchers wrote that they are the “cornerstone medication for the treatment of cancer pain,” and are consumed by as much as two-thirds of patients at intake. With the inclusion of cannabis, 36 percent of those patients stopped taking opioids and about 10 percent reduced their dose.
This isn’t the first study of its kind. However, it is the first time researchers have peered over the results of so many patients at once, said Sid Taubenfeld, CEO of Tikun Olam Pharma, a United States Branch of the company. Israel has an edge over other countries studying cannabis, as marijuana research is entirely legal and is even supported by the government. The researchers hope the results have far-reaching effects and influence physicians around the globe.
“If you look at this study and you’re a doctor and your patients are suffering with opioids, you’d be hard pressed not to give them cannabis,” said Taubenfeld. “The same for steroids, or any sleep medication. You see the quality of life was so staggering that you should consider cannabis.”
“Cannabis is not magic,” Schleider said. “But for some patients, in one treatment, we target many symptoms and on top of all that we reduced the number of medications they were taking.” And if cannabis could substitute opioid painkillers, not only does that improve patients’ quality of life, but reduces their risk of dependence or fatalities in their final days.”
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