Could Medical Marijuana Reduce Patients’ Need for Opioid Painkillers?

By Maia Szalavitz

A small, new study backs a long-standing claim of advocates of medical marijuana: pain patients can safely use cannabis while taking opioid painkillers, and may actually need fewer pills because of it.
The research included 21 chronic pain patients, who were taking either long-acting morphine or Oxycontin twice a day. Adding marijuana to these opioid drugs reduced patients’ pain by an average of 27% and did not significantly affect blood levels of the prescription drugs. If marijuana had raised those blood levels, it could have increased overdose risk.
“The combination may allow for opioid treatment at lower doses with fewer side effects,” the authors concluded.