In a study published in the European Journal of Internal Medicine, Israeli researchers, including Raphael Mechoulam, found that after six months of medical cannabis treatment, 18 percent of 2,736 patients over age 65 were able to stop or reduce their opioid use. Pain and cancer were the two most common indications for cannabis treatment in the study, and overall 93.7 percent of respondents “reported improvement in their condition” and their pain level reduced from a median of 8 to 4 on a 0-10 scale.
“Our study finds that the therapeutic use of cannabis is safe and efficacious in the elderly population. Cannabis use may decrease the use of other prescription medicines, including opioids,” the authors surmised, adding that gathering more data on this “special population is imperative.”
The study, published Feb. 1, found that the most common side effects were dizziness, reported by 9.7 percent of respondents, and dry mouth, reported by 7 percent of respondents.
The study is the latest in a growing body of evidence purporting cannabis can help stem the U.S. opioid epidemic. A University of New Mexico study published in November found a 47 percent reduction in daily opioid dosage in enrollees who also used cannabis. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health in October found that cannabis legalization in Colorado led to a 6.5 decrease in opioid-related deaths. A HelloMD and University of Berkeley study surveyed nearly 3,000 HelloMD patients and found 97 percent “agreed” or “strongly agreed” they could decrease their opioid medication use when using cannabis.
Last May, the federal National Institute on Drug Abuse updated their website to reflect two NIDA-funded research that found an association between cannabis legalization and a reduction in opioid-related deaths due to painkillers and another that shows states with a comprehensive medical cannabis program see lower rates of opioid prescribing, non-medical prescription opioid use, and less opioid-associated hospital admissions.