Canadian researchers and their progressive cannabis research have done it again, announcing the results of a new study into the relationship between cannabis use and injected opioids.
Between September 2005 and November 2018, researchers from the British Columbia Centre on Substance Use carried out interviews with 2,459 participants. In these interviews, participants’ drug and cannabis use were recorded, with follow-up interviews conducted at different intervals.
Although the study recorded data for participants use of non-injected methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin, the strongest findings related to injected opioids and cannabis. In total, 27% of participants used cannabis at least daily, with researchers noting that they tended to increase their cannabis use when stopping opioids.
After 14 years, the study reported two major findings. Researchers discovered that an increase in cannabis use did not increase a participants chance of relapsing back into injected opioid use. This meant that more marijuana did not mean more opioids.
Instead, using cannabis at least daily was associated with a 16% increase in ceasing opioid use. Throughout the study, researchers referred to this as ‘injection cessation’, writing in the conclusion:
The association between cannabis use and the cessation of opioid injection is important given the recent regulatory changes to nonmedical cannabis use and the ongoing opioid overdose epidemic.
While this is the first major study to specifically examine injected opioids, researchers findings are consistent with other research on the relationship between cannabis and opioids.
Back in June, the American Academy of Pain Medicine conducted a long-term study of 751 chronic pain patients. After twelve months of monitoring, the study found that patients were able to use medical cannabis as an alternative to opioids. Another Israeli study found that micro-dosing inhaled cannabis is just as effective as regular prescription pain medications – including opioids.
While opioids are one of the most effective forms of pain treatment widely available, opioid-related deaths currently account for 62% of drug-induced deaths worldwide, according to the Institute of Health and Welfare. Between 2017 and 2017, around 3.1 million Australians filled opioid prescriptions.
Earlier this year, UNSW’s National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre rating cannabis 2nd last for drug-induced deaths between 1997 and 2018. You can read that story here.