New UK data has highlighted that medical cannabis could provide a solution to the opioid crisis as an alternative medicine for chronic pain patients.
UK patients with chronic pain are often prescribed opioid painkillers, with a 2019 report revealing that one in eight UK adults are prescribed some form of opioid, a group of highly addictive pain killers which can put patients at risk of overdose and death. The Medical Cannabis Clinics (TMCC) has now released new data from a survey of hundreds of patients that have been prescribed medical cannabis to treat pain, which revealed that 86% of patients found medical cannabis to be more effective than other medication they had previously taken.
Medical cannabis was legalised in the UK in November 2018, however, access is still limited. These new data support arguments for medical cannabis’ potential over other existing treatment options, including opioids.
Reducing opioid intake
Chronic pain significantly impacts the quality of life of patients across the UK – a study by The British Pain Society found that chronic pain affects more than 40% of the UK population. This equates to more than 28 million adults in the UK living with pain that has lasted three months or longer.
Dr Sunny Nayee, Medical Director of The Medical Cannabis Clinics and leading UK medical cannabis pain specialist, said: “Medical cannabis has been unfairly stigmatised for decades, but recent advances and the success we have seen first-hand in the clinics have allowed us to reconsider this once disregarded treatment option.
“Existing treatments for both chronic pain and opioid addiction carry their own risks, which has led experts to consider alternatives and research how medical cannabis works in the body. Early data that we are seeing in our clinic supports the use of medical cannabis to manage chronic pain and allows patients to safely reduce opioid intake. We continue to be excited about the ongoing research into how medical cannabis can support patients with opioid dependency and improve their symptoms.”
Data from TMCC’s survey further showed that 90% of patients reported that medical cannabis had a positive impact on their life and 93% either had recommended or would recommend the treatment to others with their condition.
Improving quality of life
These data add to the preliminary results released earlier this month from independent research group Project Twenty21, which is collecting the UK’s largest body of medical cannabis evidence, which showed that the treatment improved quality of life by over 50% in patients with a range of medical conditions.
Matt Irvine, a patient at The Medical Cannabis Clinics, said: “My life has been severely impacted by chronic pain. I couldn’t work, I couldn’t wash or dress myself properly and I couldn’t do chores, so my mental health suffered as a result. I was prescribed opioids, but they put me in a zombie-like state and I was useless throughout the year I was taking them. Medical cannabis has given me some control back into my life and my depression and anxiety has practically disappeared. I’m relieved that now I can focus on living my life and feel more like a normal, healthy person.”