Could Cannabis be a Safer Pain Relief Alternative to Opioids?

Pain relief is one of the most common uses for medical cannabis.

Barth Wilsey, MD, a pain medicine specialist, told WebMD that pain is the main reason people ask for a cannabis prescription, and it is commonly used to treat all types of pain, including headaches, cancer, glaucoma or nerve pain.

In the video below, CannMed presenter Sara Jane Ward, Ph.D talks about the work she and her colleagues at Temple University do to investigate the efficacy of using molecules from the cannabis plant to treat a number of chronic pain conditions, including spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, and stroke. They are also investigating whether cannabis can be used to treat conditions for which there are no FDA-approved treatments, such as chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain.

Her research into cannabis as a pain reliever comes at a critical time. The country is in the midst of an opioid epidemic. According to the Centers of Disease Control, opioids were involved in 33,091 deaths in 2015, and opioid overdoses have quadrupled since 1999. Prescription opioids are fueling the epidemic. Nearly half of all U.S. opioid overdose deaths involve a prescription opioid, and in 2015 alone, more than 15,000 people died from overdoses involving prescription opioids.

Conversely, there has never been a single documented overdose death associated with medical cannabis. Furthermore, a study conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center found that “the annual rate of opioid overdose deaths decreased substantially — by 25 percent on average — following the passage of medical marijuana laws, compared to states that still had bans.”

Dr. Ward, who is also a substance abuse researcher, admits she had concerns about the abuse liability of cannabis-based therapeutics when she first began her research. However, reading scientific articles, speaking with colleagues, and attending scientific conferences, such as CannMed, has allayed those concerns.

Dr. Ward will share her findings at CannMed 2017, which will take place April 9-11, 2017 at The Joseph B. Martin Conference Center at Harvard Medical School. Register today to take advantage of our Early Bird Pricing Discount, which ends February 28.

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