Opioid use is a big problem in America right now, with tens of thousands of people now dying from opioids every year. Opioid abuse is a problem for every state in America, and New Mexico is no exception. Last year New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Advisory Board recommended adding opioid use disorder to the list of qualifying conditions for New Mexico’s medical marijuana program. Unfortunately the recommendation was disregarded by Health Secretary Lynn Gallagher who refused to act on the recommendation. Advocates were back this year pushing for a similar recommendation from the Board, which happened Friday. Per Santa Fe New Mexican:
Medical professionals on the front lines of New Mexico’s drug abuse epidemic have successfully petitioned members of the state’s Medical Cannabis Advisory Board to recommend opioid use disorder as a condition that qualifies a patient to use cannabis.
“We have a crisis in New Mexico, and we have had for a long time,” Dr. Steve Jension told the board at its semiannual meeting Friday. Jenison is a former state Department of Health employee, cannabis program director and advisory board member who now works as a paramedic in Dixon.
“I get to see the people who die or nearly die of it on a continuing basis,” he said of opioid abuse. “Now is the time for the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board to send a clear, unambiguous and unanimous recommendation to the secretary of health to add this to the list of eligible conditions.”
Last year the Board’s vote was 5-1, but this year the vote was unanimously in favor of sending the recommendation to Secretary Lynn Gallagher. Last year Secretary Gallagher cited a ‘lack of scientific evidence’ that cannabis would help treat opioid use disorder. Advocates came out in full force this year, submitting a mountain of evidence that cannabis does indeed help treat opioid use disorder. Hopefully the Secretary listens this time, but everyone on the ground in New Mexico seems to be tempering their expectations. Below is a list of studies that have found that cannabis reduces opioid use, from our friends at Uncle Cliffy:
“The treatment of chronic pain with medicinal cannabis in this open-label, prospective cohort resulted in improved pain and functional outcomes, and a significant reduction in opioid use.” - Haroutounian S, Ratz Y, Ginosar Y, Furmanov K, Saifi F, Meidan R, Davidson E. (2016)
“Among respondents that regularly used opioids, over three-quarters (76.7%) indicated that they reduced their use since they started medical cannabis.” - Piper BJ1,2,3, DeKeuster RM4,5, Beals ML6, Cobb CM4,7, Burchman CA8,9, Perkinson L10, Lynn ST10, Nichols SD11, Abess AT12 (2017)
“Among study participants, medical cannabis use was associated with a 64% decrease in opioid use (n = 118), decreased number and side effects of medications, and an improved quality of life (45%). This study suggests that many CP patients are essentially substituting medical cannabis for opioids and other medications for CP treatment, and finding the benefit and side effect profile of cannabis to be greater than these other classes of medications.” - Boehnke KF, Litinas E, Clauw DJ. (2016)
“All prescriptions for scheduled medications must be reported to the New Mexico Prescription Monitoring Program with opiates and benzodiazepines being the two most common. Based on these prescription records, patients enrolled in the medical cannabis program reduced the monthly average number of prescriptions, types of prescriptions (drug classes), number of prescribers, and number of related pharmacy visits. 71% of medical cannabis program enrollees either ceased or reduced their use of scheduled prescriptions within 6 months of enrolling.” - Stith, S. S., et al (2017)
“The growing body of research supporting the medical use of cannabis as an adjunct or substitute for opioids creates an evidence-based rationale for governments, health care providers, and academic researchers to consider the implementation and assessment of cannabis-based interventions in the opioid crisis.” - Philippe Lucas (2017)
“The majority of patients in this study believed that medical marijuana is a valid treatment and that it does have a role in reducing post-injury and post-operative pain. Those patients who used marijuana during their recovery felt that it alleviated symptoms of pain and reduced their opioid intake.” - Heng, Marilyn MD, MPH, FRCSC; McTague, Michael F. MPH; Lucas, Robert C. BA; Harris, Mitchel B. MD; Vrahas, Mark S. MD; Weaver, Michael J. MD (2017)