Cannabis helps reduce opioid use in patients with chronic back pain

Published in the journal Cureus in January 2022, this study focused on the impact of cannabis on opioid use in 186 patients with chronic musculoskeletal noncancer low back pain who were using opioids as a treatment in 2018 and 2019. The average patient age was 64, ranging from 33 to 90.

The study compared the average morphine milligram equivalent (MME) doses of patients before initiating cannabis and after initiating medical cannabis. Patients completed pain and disability questionnaires after 3, 6, and 9 months of cannabis use.

Patients were divided into two groups: those that used less than 15 MME daily doses and those that uses more than 15 MME daily doses of opioid painkillers. Both groups reduced their MME daily doses by more than 25%, while 38% of patients stopped taking opioids completely. THIS is perhaps the most important result. 25% reduction in opioid use is great, but the fact that over one third of the patients stopped using them altogether is really pretty astounding.

The routes of administration of cannabis varied with 63% vaporizing "oil" or flower, and 71% using oral or tinctures. Patients could use multiple administration routes and most of them did. Of those that chose a single administration route, the methods were fairly evenly spread among these choices, including topical.

"Upon MC [medical cannabis] certification, patients with lower levels of baseline opioid use have a high chance of stopping opioid use altogether. Patients show improved pain scores and daily function scores following MC certification. The use of multiple routes of administration simultaneously may be more efficacious in reducing opioid utilization."

"MC use reduces opioid prescription for patients with chronic back pain and improves pain and disability scores."

The full-text paper is here at