Illinois Medical marijuana patients have been reporting that cannabis has enabled them to lessen or even stop some prescription medications, a new study finds.
The study was conducted by Rush and DePaul Universities with 30 volunteer participants, meaning that the results could be biased in favor of marijuana, conceded the researchers. It is also believed to be the first peer reviewed study of its kind in Illinois.
It hands us direct anecdotal evidence regarding what previous studies have suggested, that cannabis can lead to the reduced use of opioid drugs, said lead author Douglas Bruce.
“One of the most compelling things to come out of this is that people are taking control of their own health, and most providers would agree that’s a good thing,” said Bruce. “But the lack of provider knowledge around what cannabis does and doesn’t do, the difference in products and ingestion methods and dosing, is all kind of a Wild West.”
The study results came in while the Medical Cannabis Alliance of Illinois is pushing for legislation that would make any condition that a doctor would prescribe opiates a condition that is permissible under their medical cannabis laws.
Former White House drug policy advisor, Kevin Sabet, who now operates Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a group opposed to broad legalization, thinks the study is a dud, saying, “It was an uncontrolled observation of 30 people who were mixing pot with other drugs.”
Bruce came back, saying that Sabet had his own kind of biases when it came to marijuana. “There’s power in people telling their stories in a way you can’t get in a survey,” said Bruce. “It’s important to do qualitative research to understand how people are using cannabis, then figure out how to measure it.”
Despite federal prohibition, Illinois is one of the US’s 29 states that have legalized medical marijuana. Of their population, around 25,000 have at least one of the serious qualifying conditions to use medical cannabis.
In the DePaul-Rush study, the average participant was around 45 years old and mostly used cannabis to treat pain, seizures or inflammation.
Participants who were quoted in the report all reported being “deeply dissatisfied” with their prescription medications.
One patient used to ingest 180 Vicodin a month. Another participant took hundreds and hundreds of ibuprofen over time. A woman with HIV and cancer said that cannabis was actually helping after agonizing years of trying to get off the anti-inflammatory prednisone.
Then there’s the 33-year-old woman who has multiple sclerosis and said that marijuana helped relieve “unbearable” pain, it allowed her to sleep, too, compared to her prescription medicine, which made her feel like a “zombie.”