Study On Opioid Reduction Using Cannabis


Researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Health System have been awarded a five year, $3.8 million grant for the very first long term study on whether medical cannabis can reduce opioid use in chronic pain patients. More specifically, how medical cannabis can change the quality of life for those who are HIV+. The grant is titled “Does medical cannabis reduce opioid analgesics in HIV+ and HIV- adults with pain?” (1R01DA044171-01A1). This grant was awarded by the National Institutes of Health on August 8, 2017.

“There is a lack of information about the impact of medical marijuana on opioid use in those with chronic pain,” says Chinazo Cunningham, M.D., M.S., associate chief of general internal medicine at Einstein and Montefiore and principal investigator on the grant. “We hope this study will fill in the gaps and provide doctors and patients with some much needed guidance.”

Albert Einstein College of Medicine is one of the top research centers in the United States for medical education, clinical investigation, and research. They have thousands of well educated, knowledgeable doctors studying and teaching on-site. In their time operating, the research center has also been granted millions for studies on conditions like diabetes, cardiac disease, neuroscience, liver disease, AIDS, brain research, and more.

“As state and federal governments grapple with the complex issues surrounding opioids and medical marijuana, we hope to provide evidence-based recommendations that will help shape responsible and effective healthcare practices and public policies,” notes Dr. Cunningham.

This study will be the very first of its kind and comes at a poignant time. America is currently in an ‘Opioid Crisis’. Seriously, every day more than 90 Americans die from an opioid overdose. To make matters worse, these highly addictive pills are abused by a huge number of Americans; causing a deficit of at least $78.5 billion yearly.

To be more specific, the research will be focused on 250 adults with chronic pain and both (1) use opioids and (2) have a recommendation for medical cannabis from their doctor. The medical cannabis will then be purchased from the patient’s local New York dispensary.

Subjects will be studied over the period of 18 months, answering questionnaires every two weeks. The questions will be focused on pain levels and the medical and/or illicit use of opioids and cannabis. On top of this, participants will provide urine and blood samples to the research team every three months. After the study, a select number of participants will all be used to explore how medical cannabis can affect the use of opioids.

Researchers are going to more specifically focus on the effects of medical cannabis for chronic pain in HIV+ patients. Anywhere between 25 and 90% of adults suffering with HIV are likely to suffer from chronic pain and most of them are prescribed opioids despite them being highly addictive. Currently, many states and countries have listed HIV/AIDS as a qualifying condition for medical cannabis. With so many of the participants in this study being HIV+, this will add another layer of research to an already robust study.

Hopefully, this study will be the beginning of many that dive into the medical benefits of cannabis.

August 22, 2017

by Cara Wietstock

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Cara began working in the retail cannabis industry of San Francisco, CA in 2011 and continued in that sector for years. In 2015 she put down her budtender hat and dedicated herself to writing full-time. Her passion for the written word and deep respect for the healing properties of the cannabis plant fuel the passion in her posts.


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