Nearly 3 Out of 4 Patients Say Weed Helps with Opioid Withdrawal, Study Finds
Researchers at one of America’s top medical research institutions said the study’s results were so profound that they warranted clinical trials to test cannabis’s ability to treat opioid addiction.
Published on April 13, 2020

Medical researchers at Johns Hopkins University say there’s now enough evidence that cannabis could be one solution for the worldwide opioid epidemic. 

A recent study conducted by the Johns Hopkins University Medical School surveyed 200 people who said they consumed both marijuana and opioid painkillers. The survey sought to uncover whether these respondents thought that cannabis helped or worsened their struggle with opioid addiction.

Of the 200 total respondents, 125 said they used weed to deal with the painful withdrawal symptoms associated with heavy opioid use. Almost three out of four respondents, or 72 percent, said cannabis helped them get through the harrowing withdrawal period, which can last for days if not weeks. Only 6.4 percent said that cannabis made the withdrawals worse. The remainder reported mixed results or no effects at all.

The symptoms that respondents said weed helped with the most were “anxiety (76.2 percent of respondents), tremors (54.1 percent), trouble sleeping (48.4 percent), bone and muscle aches (45.9 percent), restlessness (45.1 percent), nausea (38.5 percent) and opioid cravings (37.7 percent),” reported Ben Adlin at Marijuana Moment.

“The most common symptoms reportedly made worse were yawning (7.4 percent), runny nose (6.6 percent), teary eyes (6.6 percent), restlessness (5.7 percent), vomiting (5.7 percent) and hot flashes (5.7 percent),” he continued.

“Across all symptoms, more participants indicated that symptoms improved with cannabis compared to those that indicated symptoms worsened with cannabis,” the study’s authors wrote “Ratios reflecting the participants who experienced improved versus worsened symptoms indicated that more individuals found cannabis to improve rather than worsen all evaluated symptoms.”

Previous studies show that states with legal weed see lower rates of opioid overdoses or abuse compared to states without legal weed, too. Although researchers aren’t sure why people in weed-legal states pop fewer painkillers than those in prohibition states, it’s possible that marijuana’s ability to control pain leads some patients to reduce their opioid use.

Additionally, the Johns Hopkins researchers found that women reported getting more positive improvements from weed when going through opioid withdrawals. The finding confirms results from another recent study suggesting that women probably enjoy marijuana’s psychoactive properties more than men do.

Of course, every study has its flaws. For this latest by Johns Hopkins, the researchers relied entirely on the respondents’ answers. Survey subjects were not drug-tested to confirm their use of opioids or marijuana, nor were respondents required to submit documentation of their drug use.

Regardless of the study’s limitations, the researchers said they believed they had enough evidence to request clinical trials into weed’s potential use for curbing opioid addiction.

“This data suggest that the co-users of opioids and cannabis endorse cannabis as a method for reducing opioid withdrawal therapy,” the researchers wrote, according to Marijuana Moment. “Given the shifting legal landscape, prospectively designed clinical trials that assess whether cannabis or its components can effectively treat opioid withdrawal are warranted.”

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Randy Robinson
Based in Denver, Randy studied cannabinoid science while getting a degree in molecular biology at the University of Colorado. When not writing about cannabis, science, politics, or LGBT issues, they can be found exploring nature somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Catch Randy on Twitter and Instagram @randieseljay
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