For the first time ever, the National Institute of Health is putting funding toward long-term study to research the impacts of medical cannabis on opioid use. Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Health System are leading the study. Researchers been awarded a five-year $3.8 million grant to study whether medical marijuana reduces opioid use among adults with chronic pain. The study will have a special focus on chronic pain patients with HIV. Dr. Chinazo Cunningham, associate chief of internal medicine at Einstein and Montefiore plans to enroll 250 HIV-positive and HIV-negative adults with chronic pain who use opioids and who have received certification from their physicians to use medical cannabis, which is provided through approved dispensaries in New York State.
The reason many physicians and lawmakers have been reluctant to accept the new wave of medicinal cannabis programs is the lack of nationally supported evidence that marijuana products can do more good than the harm it is portrayed to cause. With new information, doctors can be educated on more natural and safe medication. Dr. Chinazo Cunningham says in a statement, “We hope this study will fill in the gaps and provide doctors and patients with some much needed guidance.” Albert Einstein College of Medicine says researchers have never studied whether using medical marijuana over time reduces the use of opioids and most studies have focused on illicit, rather than medical, marijuana, and have reported negative effects.
Many patients with chronic pain, HIV, or other conditions requiring an opioid drug prescription have a dependence on the drug and in some cases are addicted to the point that they urged to raise the dosage even after the pain subsides. These people are susceptible to harsher, sometimes illegal drugs and along with those who’ve become addicted to drugs like heroin originally have labeled the opioid epidemic. Though the problem has been acknowledge in government all the way up to the highest level, there hasn’t been many solutions proposed. Attorney general Jeff Sessions, while vehemently opposing marijuana legalization, also rejects the idea that medical marijuana could solve the opioid crisis. However, new data collected in the NIH study should provide the irrefutable evidence necessary to prove a potential role for rising medical marijuana programs.
Some U.S. senators recently took a step toward easing up on medical cannabis. U.S. Sens. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) introduced a bill that would end the federal prohibition of medical cannabis and take steps to improve research.
“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 health care practices and public policies,” Dr. Cunningham said in a statement. AGRiMED looks forward to providing Pennsylvanians safe and effective medical cannabis products beginning in 2018.