Cannabis as an adjunct to or substitute for opiates in the treatment of chronic pain
There is a growing body of evidence to support the use of medical cannabis as an adjunct to or substitute for prescription opiates in the treatment of chronic pain. When used in conjunction with opiates, cannabinoids lead to a greater cumulative relief of pain, resulting in a reduction in the use of opiates (and associated side-effects) by patients in a clinical setting. Additionally, cannabinoids can prevent the development of tolerance to and withdrawal from opiates, and can even rekindle opiate analgesia after a prior dosage has become ineffective. Novel research suggests that cannabis may be useful in the treatment of problematic substance use. These findings suggest that increasing safe access to medical cannabis may reduce the personal and social harms associated with addiction, particularly in relation to the growing problematic use of pharmaceutical opiates. Despite a lack of regulatory oversight by federal governments in North America, community-based medical cannabis dispensaries have proven successful at supplying patients with a safe source of cannabis within an environment conducive to healing, and may be reducing the problematic use of pharmaceutical opiates and other potentially harmful substances in their communities.
Evaluation of the effects of CBD hemp extract on opioid use and quality of life indicators in chronic pain patients: a prospective cohort study
Context: Chronic pain is highly prevalent in most of the industrialized nations around the world. Despite the documented adverse effects, opioids are widely used for pain management. Cannabinoids, and specifically Cannabidiol, is proposed as an opioid alternative, having comparable efficacy with better safety profile.Objectives: We aim to investigate the impact of full hemp extract cannabidiol (CBD) on opioid use and quality of life indicators among chronic pain patients.Methods: An initial sample of 131 patients was recruited from a private pain management center’s investigative population. Ninety-seven patients completed the 8-week study. The primary inclusion criteria included patients between 30 and 65 years old with chronic pain who have been on opioids for at least 1 year. Data were collected at three different time points: baseline, 4, and 8 weeks. Opioid and other medication use were evaluated via the medication and psychiatric treatment receipt. Improvement was evaluated using four indices: Pain Disability Index (PDI-4); Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), Pain Intensity and Interference (PEG); and Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-4).Results: Over half of chronic pain patients (53%) reduced or eliminated their opioids within 8 weeks after adding CBD-rich hemp extract to their regimens. Almost all CBD users (94%) reported quality of life improvements. The results indicated a significant relationship between CBD and PSQI (p = 0.003), and PEG (p = 0.006). There was a trend toward improvement but no significant relationship between CBD use and PHQ and PDI.Conclusion: CBD could significantly reduce opioid use and improve chronic pain and sleep quality among patients who are currently using opioids for pain management.Key Message: This is a prospective, single-arm cohort study for the potential role of cannabinoids as an alternative for opioids. The results indicate that using the CBD-rich extract enabled our patients to reduce or eliminate opioids with significant improvement in their quality of life indices.
Keywords: Cannabinoid; cannabidiol; cannabis; chronic pain; opioids; sleep.