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Medical Cannabis Study Relieved Chronic Pain and Reduced Opioid Use in Elderly

Therapeutic use of cannabis in 65-plus population may also reduce need for prescription medication

A PPM Brief

Elderly patients suffering from chronic pain conditions such as those associated with cancer may seek medical cannabis treatment. Findings published in the European Journal of Internal Medicine1 indicated that medical cannabis usage among patients 65 years and older significantly improved their chronic pain and overall quality of life.

“There is a substantial growth in the use of medical cannabis in recent years, and with the aging of the population, medical cannabis is increasingly used by the elderly,” the study authors wrote. “We aimed to assess the characteristics of elderly people using medical cannabis and to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the treatment.”

The prospective study looked at patients over 65  years of age who received medical cannabis between January 2015 and October 2017 from a specialized medical cannabis clinic, and who were willing to answer an initial questionnaire after 6 months of treatment. Collected data included the patients’ medical history, medications, symptoms, quality of life, and indication for cannabis treatment. Examined outcomes included pain intensity, quality of life, and adverse events such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. In the survey, the most common indications for cannabis treatment were pain (66.6%) and cancer (60.8%).1

Approximately 2,735 patients over age 65 (mean age of 74.5± 7.5 years) began cannabis treatment and answered the initial questionnaire. After 6 months of treatment, 93.7% of the respondents indicated an improvement in their condition, with reported quality of life improving from “bad” or “very bad” to “good” or “very good” in approximately 60% of patients. In addition, patients reported that their pain level was reduced from a median score of 8 to 4 on a 0–10 scale. The most common reported adverse events were dizziness (9.7%), and dry mouth (7.1%). After the 6-month treatment period, 18.1% of patients stopped using or reduced their dosage of opioid analgesics.1

The study authors concluded that therapeutic use of cannabis may be safe and efficacious for relieving chronic pain in the elderly population. As evidenced by the percentage of those who reduced or stopped using their opioid analgesics, cannabis use may also lead to a decrease in the use of prescription medicines, specifically opioids.1

The researchers further noted that only a few studies have looked at the effects of medical cannabis in the elderly. Gathering more evidence-based data, including data from double-blind randomized-controlled trials, in this special population is a continuing need.1

Last updated on: March 14, 2018
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