Anna Lembke, an associate professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine, concluded in her new thesis that medical marijuana could effectively substitute opioids, but only under some specific circumstances. According to her, replacing high-dose opioids with medical cannabis is ideal in tackling the side effects of opioid consumption.
However, Anna Lembke is not recommending using marijuana to address the opioid crisis that is now affecting the United States and Canada, among other regions in the world. She is also against using medical marijuana in treating chronic pain.
“Nonetheless, for patients with cancer pain already on high-dose opioids who are at imminent risk for adverse consequences related to those opioids – such as patients with increased pain due to opioids, also known as opioid-induced hyperalgesia – marijuana represents a possible harm-reduction strategy,” said Anna Lembke on Healio.
Medical Marijuana Could Effectively Substitute Opioids
“Replacing opioids with marijuana in this limited clinical setting might reduce the risk for death as it is difficult, if not impossible, to overdose on marijuana. I have had patients under my care on dangerously high doses of opioids for pain who have successfully transitioned off of opioids by switching to marijuana, and who are doing better as a result,” wrote Anna Lembke, who is also the program director of Stanford University Addiction Medicine Fellowship, on Healio.
According to her, she also had some patients who tried to move from opioids to pharmaceutical cannabis but ended up consuming both drugs, in the end. She added that some patients might not be capable of substituting opioid consumption with medical marijuana to taper off of opioids.
“I might also add that medical marijuana in place of opioids is a potential harm-reduction strategy for prescribers, who are increasingly medicolegally liable for continuing patients on high-dose opioids,” Anna Lembke concluded.