Study Funded by Federal Organization Will Address Impact of Medical Marijuana on Opioid Use


The National Institute of Health (NIH) awarded researchers a $3.8 million grant last summer to study the impacts of medical marijuana on opioid use. The study will try to determine if using medical marijuana can reduce the use of opioids among patients with chronic pain.

First-Ever Long-Term Study on Medical Marijuana Reducing Opioid Use

It is the first-ever long-term study regarding marijuana used for opioid use reduction. Scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Health System will look at 250 HIV-positive adults and HIV-negative adults with chronic pain who use opioids, as well as certification to use medical marijuana by their doctors.

Participants in the study will complete web-based questions every two weeks, over the course of 18 months. Questions will concentrate on pain levels and the medical and illicit use of marijuana and opioids. Blood and urine samples will also be taken at in-person research visits every three months. A select group of participants will also undergo in-depth interviews that will study their perceptions of how using medical marijuana affects the use of opioids.

Researchers Believe There “Lack of Evidence” on the Impact of Marijuana on Opioid Use

Principle investigator and Associate Chief of Internal Medicine at Einstein and Montefiore, Chinanzo Cunningham believes “there is a lack of information about the impact of medical marijuana on opioid use in those with chronic pain.”

Cunningham says, “We hope this study will fill in the gaps and provide doctors and patients with some much-needed guidance.”

There have been several studies that suggest that medical marijuana can help reduce the use of opioids to manage pain. The study funded by the NIH however, will be the largest to date. The medical cannabis used in the study will come from New York medical dispensaries, rather than the low-grade marijuana the government is infamous for growing.

A press release from Albert Einstein College of Medicine stated that “researchers have never studied, in any population, if the use of medical marijuana over time reduces the use of opioids. Additionally, there are no studies on how the specific chemical compounds of marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), affect health outcomes, like pain, function, and quality of life. Most studies that have reported negative effects of long-term marijuana use have focused on illicit, rather than medical, marijuana.”

This first-ever study of its kind could reveal what many experts already believe to be true. That medical marijuana could significantly reduce the use of prescription opioid use. And in the midst an opioid epidemic of unbelievable proportion, results of the study could have a significant impact in more ways than one.