Medical marijuana has been available in some states for more than – or very close to – twenty years now. Over those two decades, one thing has proven certain – patients prefer cannabis to prescriptions, especially for pain. With the opiate epidemic and pill mills of the last decade, it’s no surprise that people’s attitudes are changing toward a substance that is natural, and clearly works.
There are over 50 million – or roughly 20 percent of U.S. adults – live with chronic pain of some sort. That is 20 percent of the population who relies on some sort of pain relief to get through their day. For millions of people, that is doctor prescribed painkillers – often addictive opiates. However, in the last few years, more people than ever have been turning to cannabis for pain relief. In fact, studies show that patients prefer medical marijuana to their prescriptions.
Almost All Patients Prefer Cannabis to Opiates
A 2017 study found that 93 percent of patients prefer cannabis to opioids for managing their pain, when giving the option. The study was conducted by researchers from the University of California Berkeley and Kent State University. Done by email the study reached 2,819 participants.
Of those nearly 3,000 patients, only 828 had used opioids in the last six months for pain management. 97 percent agreed that they were able to decrease the number of opioids they consumed when using cannabis.
Most Say Cannabis is More Effective by Itself
That same study found that 81 percent agreed that cannabis by itself was more effective using it with opioids. If given the option, patients would prefer to medicate only with cannabis. 89 percent of those participants agreed that opiates create negative side effects – such as constipation and nausea – that are not experienced with cannabis.
“Patients have been telling us for decades that this practice is producing better outcomes than the use of opioid-based medications,” researcher Amanda Reiman said.
Studies Consistently Find Patients Turning to Cannabis
More recently, the story still appears to be the same. A study published in the International Journal of Drug Policy determined that people who live in states where medical cannabis is legal are less likely to use opiates. Researchers from the Florida International University determined this based on data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
Another more recent study, published in PLoS ONE, surveyed 16,280 adults nationally. Conducted by researchers from the San Fransisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, the survey found that 5 percent reported using medical marijuana and opiates in the past year. 43 percent said they took opioids daily – and 23 percent reported using marijuana in the past month. Of those who were medicating with both, 41 percent said they had decreased or stopped using opiates.
“The most commonly reported reasons for substitution were better pain management (36%) and fewer side effects (32%) and withdrawal symptoms (26%), compared to the non-medical reasons for use: cheaper (13%) and more social acceptance from marijuana use (13%),” the study’s authors write.
Overall, it’s clear that Americans are in favor of cannabis as a pain relief alternative. Over half of the U.S. now has access to medical marijuana, at least millions are now able to access a safer alternative.
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