As doctors struggle to contain the opioid crisis in Canada, a new study on chronic pain suggests that medicinal cannabis may offer alternative relief.
Funded by Toronto-based Apollo Applied Research, it tracked the experiences of more than 300 chronic pain patients over a period of three years.
More than one- third of participants had been prescribed a regimen of opioids, such as oxycodone and fentanyl, which come with a high risk of addiction and potentially fatal overdose.
Dosages and delivery mechanisms varied for each patient, but surveys of participants in Apollo’s study — observational in nature rather than experimental — found that 45 percent of opiate users reduced their dosage after starting cannabis treatment, and another 35 percent stopped taking opiates altogether.
Medicinal cannabis, which generally lacks the “high” of recreational pot because of lower levels of THC, is most often prescribed for low-level pain management, particularly for patients with chronic pain. The drug is also prescribed for glaucoma, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Parkinson’s- related tremors and for pain stemming from irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease.
For Apollo’s study, each participant was given a treatment plan by their own doctor. Researchers then had them fill out standardized surveys (created using certified methodologies for scoring subjective experience) to see whether they had any reductions in the intensity and frequency of pain, as well as other improvements to the quality of life.
Overall, participants reported a 20 percent reduction in the severity of symptoms and a dramatic reduction in opiate use. “In total, it was close to about 75 percent to 80 percent of (opioid users) that stopped or reduced their opioid use,” says Genane Loheswaran, the company’s director of clinical research.
Apollo’s researchers have also been looking into cannabis effects among patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and Loheswaran says the results there are similarly promising.
This original article, written by David Dias, appeared in the ‘Cannabis Post’, special to ‘National Post’ on March 27th, 2018. The full article can be read here.