A recent report by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), which advises the United Nations on matters of drug control, has drawn attention to the fact that opioid painkillers are now killing more people than heroin and cocaine, and that, despite this, “the current treatment approach is failing.”
The statistics are in and, for the most part, they are looking good. Use of pain-relief medication is declining and the number of opioid-related deaths in the UK have plummeted. This is exactly the type of news that medical marijuana advocates have been waiting for.New data from the UK has shown that medicinal cannabis could be a solution to the opioid crisis as an alternative medicine for chronic pain patients. In the UK, patients with chronic pain are often prescribed opioid analgesics. According to a 2019 report, one in eight adults in the UK is prescribed some form of opioid, a group of painkillers that are highly addictive and put patients at risk of overdose and death. Medical Cannabis Clinics (TMCC) has released new data from a survey of hundreds of patients who were prescribed medical cannabis for pain. This showed that 86% of the patients found medicinal cannabis more effective than other drugs they had previously used. Medical cannabis was legalised in the UK in November 2018, but access is still restricted. These new findings confirm the promise of medicinal cannabis over other existing treatments, including opioids.
Reduction in use of opioids
Chronic pain significantly affects the quality of life of patients across the UK. A study by the British Pain Society found that more than 40% of the UK population has chronic pain. This means that more than 28 million adults in the UK live with pain that lasts for three months or more. Dr Sonny Nye, medical director of Medical Cannabis Clinics and leading expert in the UK on medical cannabis pain management, said: Medicinal cannabis has been unfairly stigmatized for decades, but recent advances and successes in our own clinical experiences have allowed us to rethink this once neglected treatment option. Existing treatments for both chronic pain and opioid addiction carry their own risks, which has led experts to look for alternatives and study how medicinal cannabis works in the body. The initial data we are seeing in our clinic supports the use of medicinal cannabis to treat chronic pain and allow patients to safely reduce their opioid use. We remain encouraged by the continued research into how medical cannabis can help patients with opioid addiction and improve their symptoms. Data from the TMCC survey also showed that 90 percent of patients reported that medicinal cannabis had a positive impact on their lives, and 93 percent recommended or would recommend the treatment to others suffering from the same illness.
Improvement of quality of life
The findings come on top of preliminary results published earlier this month by the Twenty21 Project, an independent research group that has compiled the largest dataset on medicinal cannabis in the UK, which showed that the treatment improves the quality of life of patients suffering from a wide range of conditions by more than 50%. Matt Irwin, a patient at Medical Cannabis Clinics, said: My life has been very affected by chronic pain. I couldn’t work, I couldn’t wash or dress, I couldn’t clean, and my mental health suffered. I was prescribed opioids, but they put me in a zombie-like state and I was useless for the year I took them. Medicinal cannabis has given me back control of my life, and my depression and anxiety have all but disappeared. I am relieved that I can now focus on my life and feel like a normal, healthy person.