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  • Writer's pictureDr. Dan Jin

Benefit and Risk of Cannabis Prescription for Chronic Non-Cancer Pain 

A group of researchers from Israel investigated whether cannabis usage was associated with reduced opioid usage. They also evaluated the risk of opioid and cannabis use disorders among chronic non-cancer pain patients who had been prescribed medical cannabis. 


A random sample of chronic pain patients were interviewed by telephone about their opioid and cannabis usage. Cannabis and opioid use disorders were assessed with Portenoy's criteria, a self‐report questionnaire for assessing addiction among pain patients treated with opioids.  


The study found that, of the 100 participants, 76 ever used opioids. Of them, 93% decreased or stopped opioids following cannabis initiation. Ten patients (10%) met the criteria for cannabis use disorder. Compared to those who did not meet the criteria, their lifetime depression was higher and they were less educated. 


The study concluded that cannabis usage was associated with reduced opioid usage in chronic non-cancer pain patients. The cannabis use disorder was more prevalent among the younger participants who also had a lower study compliance rate, suggesting the higher actual prevalence of cannabis use disorder. The researchers suggested that while medical cannabis may help reduce opioid use in chronic non-cancer pain patients, younger age, depression, and other risk factors should be carefully evaluated before cannabis is prescribed. 




  1. Zloczower, O., Brill, S., Zeitak, Y. & Peles, E. Risk and benefit of cannabis prescription for chronic non-cancer pain. J Addict Dis 1–11 (2021) doi:10.1080/10550887.2021.1956673. 


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