JAN 18, 2024 10:55 AM PST

Medical Marijuana's Role in Opioid Crisis Under Potential Scrutiny in Latest Study

Labroots recently explored how a November 2023 study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry found that cannabis does not mitigate long-term opioid addiction. Now, a more recent study published in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse could either support or refute these findings as a team of international researchers examined the potential for cannabis to be used as appropriate substitute for weaning patients away from opioid use for non-medical reasons. This study holds the potential to help medical practitioners, patients, and the public better understand the link between medical cannabis and opioid addiction.

“Clarifying how cannabis and opioids interact is crucial if we are to equip healthcare professionals to provide evidence-based addiction treatment, prevent overdose deaths and save lives,” said Gabriel Costa, who is a researcher at the University of Ribeirão Preto in Brazil and lead author of the study. 

For the study, the researchers combined findings from a meta-analysis and modeling to ascertain the risk of cannabis use and non-medical opioid use for patients suffering from opioid use disorder (OUD) and receiving appropriate treatment, as well. The meta-analysis involved a myriad of databases between March 1 and April 5, 2023, with a total of 10 studies being selected for further investigation for the final study, which totaled 8,367 participants, of which 62 percent were men and 38 percent were women.

In the end, the researchers determined there was no notable link between cannabis use and non-medical opioid use for patients being treated for OUD, also known as a no-results study, as the researchers note their findings “neither confirm…nor do they endorse” cannabis use for OUD patient treatment.

“Our data suggests healthcare systems should instead adopt individualized treatment approaches which take into account each patient’s circumstances,” said Costa.

This study comes as both medical and recreational cannabis have slowly become legalized across the United States over the past few decades, while only a handful of states still classify cannabis as illegal. Additionally, this study comes as the opioid crisis continues to be addressed, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimating that approximately 75 percent of the 107,000 drug overdose fatalities were from opioids in 2021, and the number of opioid fatalities increasing six-fold between 1999 and 2021.

What new discoveries will researchers make between cannabis and opioids in the coming years and decades? Only time will tell, and this is why we science!

As always, keep doing science & keep looking up!

Sources: Labroots, The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, EurekAlert!, DISA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Laurence Tognetti is a six-year USAF Veteran who earned both a BSc and MSc from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. Laurence is extremely passionate about outer space and science communication, and is the author of "Outer Solar System Moons: Your Personal 3D Journey".
You May Also Like
Loading Comments...