By Pat Anson, PNN Editor

A large new survey of medical marijuana users found that many who have chronic pain were able to reduce or even stop their use of opioid pain medication. The survey also found that pain patients reported less pain and better physical and social functioning once they started using medical cannabis.

Researchers at Emerald Coast Research and Florida State University College of Medicine surveyed 2,183 people recruited from marijuana dispensaries in Florida. Participants had a range of health problems, including chronic pain, anxiety, depression, insomnia and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Most were using medical cannabis daily.

Answers to the 66-question online survey revealed that nine out of ten participants found medical cannabis to be very or extremely helpful in treating their medical conditions.

Most (61%) reported using opioid pain medication prior to medical cannabis. Of those, 79 percent reported either stopping (42%) or reducing (37%) their use of prescription opioids. A small number were also able to stop using psychiatric medications for anxiety, depression and PTSD.

“The majority of Florida medical cannabis users surveyed described medical cannabis as helpful and important to their overall quality of life. Notably, a large percentage of patients reported improvements in the areas of physical functioning, social functioning, and bodily pain after beginning medical cannabis,” wrote lead author Carolyn Pritchett, PhD, founder of Emerald Coast Research.

“We also found a substantial number of patients reduced the amount of OBPM (opioid-based pain medications) used after gaining access to legalized medical cannabis, with some patients specifically describing improved functioning in daily life as a result.”

The survey findings, published in the journal Substance Use and Misuse, lend credence to previous studies suggesting that legalization of cannabis leads to fewer prescriptions for opioids and other medications.

A recent study by researchers at Cornell University found that legalization of recreational marijuana in 11 states significantly reduced prescribing for Medicaid patients for a broad range of medications used to treat pain depression, anxiety, seizures and other health conditions.

A 2021 study of chronic pain patients being treated at medical cannabis clinics also found that most were able to stop or reduce their use of opioids. Almost half (48%) reported a significant decrease in pain, and most said they had better quality of life (87%) and better physical function (80%) while using medical cannabis.

A 2021 Harris Poll found that twice as many Americans are using cannabis or CBD to manage their pain than opioid medication.