New research has looked into what patients prefer for pain management: prescription opioids, which are widely used - - and often come with undesirable side effects including fatal overdose - or medical marijuana, which has few side effects and isn’t linked with fatal overdosing.


The researchers discovered that the patients largely preferred medical marijuana, and many found it to be just as effective for their pain.


According to data from the study, patients using medical cannabis reported successfully using it along with or in place of opioid-based pain medication.


Patients who used cannabis and opioids together, were often able to manage their pain with a lower than normal dose of opioids and often found that the cannabis presented fewer undesirable side effects compared with those of the opioid medication.



In the study, researchers from the University of California Berkeley and Kent State University emailed participants surveys with questions about their pain and their opioid and marijuana usage.


2,810 of the participants reported that they were currently using cannabis and 828 of these stated that they had used opioids in the last 6 months to manage their pain.


Approximately 97 percent of the sample agreed or strongly agreed that they were able to decrease the amount of opioids they took for pain when they also used cannabis. Furthermore, approximately 89 percent agreed or strongly agreed that when they took opioids, they experienced undesirable side effects, such as constipation and nausea.

It’s interesting to note that the researchers also discovered that 81 percent of the participants agreed or strongly agreed that consuming cannabis alone was more effective in remedying their condition than consuming cannabis with opioids.


The bottom line is that if given a choice, an overwhelming number of the participants would choose to use cannabis for pain management and control of other symptoms, than they would opioids.


Opioids are an effective staple for pain management for many patients. However, there are nearly 100 deaths per day due to improper opioid usage and overdosing, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. This statistic collectively includes overdoses from a combination of heroin, and prescription opioids such as morphine and codeine.


Because of the alarming rate of fatalities linked to opioid overdoses, it is crucial that an alternative be sought. 

Marijuana is not a cut-and-dried solution and should be treated with caution when used medicinally, but there have been no recorded overdoses from marijuana. This study has shown that patients themselves report the drug as highly effective for pain management.


The study, however, isn’t perfect. The date came from personal reports of patients, which can sometimes be biased. The sample of participants were members of HelloMD, an online community, who possibly have had success with cannabis for pain management previously.


But, it is nonetheless interesting and illustrates how a large portion of the population may prefer using cannabis over opioids for pain management.


In addition, it provides researchers with further motivation to study the effects of marijuana - as opposed to opioids - for pain management over long periods of time, while hopefully diminishing the harmful side effects of traditional pain remedies.