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The Use of Cannabis as a Substitute for Opiate and Non-Opiate Based Pain Medication
Amanda Reiman, Ph.D.
 

Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia have passed laws since 1996 legalizing the use of medical cannabis for qualifying patients under state law. While state medical cannabis programs differ from one another in significant ways, most allow medical cannabis for the treatment of severe, intractable pain. Opioids remain the most commonly prescribed medicine to treat severe, chronic pain and are an important tool in the medical arsenal. However, many people do not want to take opioids given the side effects and risks associated with their use. Cannabis, effective in treating certain kinds of pain, affords new options. Cannabis’s medical safety and efficacy is well supported – particularly for the treatment of various types of severe and chronic pain. Used in combination with opioid pain medications, cannabis can lower opioid side-effects, cravings and withdrawal severity as well as enhance the analgesic effects of opioids, thereby allowing for lower doses and decreased risk of overdose. The act of substituting cannabis for opiates has also been documented in several studies of medical cannabis patients. Consistently, these studies saw substitution rates for prescription drugs over 50%, with less side effects from cannabis being a top reason for substitution across studies. UC Berkeley and HelloMD have taken on the largest survey research study on this topic to date, administering to 100,000 people in the HelloMD patient database. The results of this study will be presented here.

Amanda Reiman, Ph.D., is Manager of Marijuana Law and Policy at the Drug Policy Alliance, where she works to develop DPA’s marijuana reform work as it relates to litigation, legislative and initiative drafting, campaign strategy, policy advocacy, media relations, fundraising, and public education in the local, state, federal, and international jurisdictions in which DPA is active. Reiman joined DPA in 2012 after working with Berkeley Patients Group, a renowned medical marijuana dispensary, as director of research and patient services.

Reiman served as the first chairwoman of the Medical Cannabis Commission for the City of Berkeley, currently serves on the Cannabis Regulatory Commission for the city of Oakland, and has consulted with various cities, states, and nations on the development of medical marijuana policy. Reiman is currently a lecturer in the School of Social Welfare at the University of California, Berkeley, where she earned her Ph.D. in Social Welfare.

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