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Taking the pain out of opioid painkillers

Medical marijuana can be used as medication for a variety of ailments, like chronic pain, multiple sclerosis and wasting disease. In this post, I will discuss how you can add medical marijuana to your opioid medication to reducing your dosage — and the side effects — of those prescription drugs.

Morphine drip

A recent study showed that patients already taking opioid painkillers, like morphine or OxyContin, can safely add cannabis to their treatment and possibly reduce their reliance on those pills. The study revealed that adding medical marijuana reduced patients’ pain by around 27 percent and did not significantly affect blood levels from the prescription drugs. No medical problems were reported during the study period.

“The combination may allow for opioid treatment at lower doses with fewer side effects,” said the authors of the study.

This finding could benefit the population that are on opioid painkillers and are at an increased risk of some alarming side effects. According to a Cochrane systematic review of 26 studies, patients who took opioids for non-cancer pain for at least six months had complications with nausea, constipation and dyspepsia. Another study revealed that 90 percent of male patients who took 200 mg of morphine-equivalent daily for a year experienced symptoms of sexual dysfunction, fatigue and depression.

It sounds like opioid painkillers can create new problems, which is something every patient wants to avoid. Among those problems, there’s also a risk of addiction and overdose.

In a December 12, 2011 article in Time, Maia Szalavitz wrote, “With rising concerns about opioid overdose – the death toll associated with prescription painkillers has recently surpassed that of traffic accidents – the new finding is striking. While marijuana will never be able to replace opioids for the most severe pain, it carries no overdose risk and a far lower risk of addiction than prescription painkillers do.”

An added bonus for using medical marijuana with opioid painkillers is that findings have reported that THC in cannabis can actually treat an opiate addiction.

Our doctors at The Aurora Clinic can assess whether you should substitute medical marijuana for opioid painkillers or take them congruently. We can work together to determine the best treatment for your ailment.