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.
For the duration of the study, participants were housed and monitored in the hospital for five days, so that their vital signs could be tracked and any complications rapidly treated. They were given vaporized cannabis to inhale: the first day, they used it in the evening; for the next several days, they smoked three times a day; and on the last day, they used it in the morning.