opioids marijuana cannabis

Opioid use is a very big problem for professional sports leagues. The United States consumes opioids at a greater rate than other countries, and professional athletes consume opioids at a greater rate than the general population. For instance, former National Football League (NFL) players consume opioids at four times the rate of the general population. That is alarming, to say the least.

With that in mind, it’s extremely important for professional sports leagues to explore and incorporate all viable options for reducing opioid consumption rates by their athletes. A number of studies have found that increased access to cannabis can help lower opioid consumption rates which is why the Uncle Cliffy team has advocated so much for leagues to free the plant. We will continue to do so until the leagues show the proper level of compassion for their players.

Below is a press release that was issued today by our friends at NORML which discusses cannabis access and links to lower opioid use:

Patients routinely reduce or eliminate their use of prescription opiates following the use of medical cannabis; two recently published studies reaffirm this relationship.

“The consensus of the available data indicates that cannabis may play a potentially valuable role in mitigating the opioid public health crisis. It is time to set aside canna-bigotry and to stop placing politics ahead of American lives,” said Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director.

In the first study, published by the Minnesota Department of Health, investigators assessed the prescription drug use patterns of 2,245 intractable pain patients participating in the state’s medical cannabis access program. Among those patients known to be taking opiates for pain upon enrollment in the program, 63 percent “were able to reduce or eliminate opioid usage after six months.” The findings are similar to those of registered patients in other states’ medical cannabis programs, including IllinoisMichigan, and New Mexico, among others.

In the second study, Israeli researchers assessed the safety and efficacy of cannabis in a cohort of over 1,200 cancer patients over a period of six months. Ninety-six percent of patients “reported an improvement in their condition.” Nearly half of respondents reported either decreasing or eliminating their use of opioids during the treatment period.

A third recently published clinical trial provides insight into explaining this relationship. Investigators from the United States and Australia and assessed the efficacy of inhaled cannabis and sub-therapeutic doses of oxycodone on experimentally-induced pain in a double-blind, placebo-controlled model. Researchers assessed subjects’ pain tolerance after receiving both substances separately or in concert with one another. While neither the administration of cannabis nor oxycodone alone significantly mitigated subjects’ pain, the combined administration of both drugs did so effectively.

Authors determined, “Both active cannabis and a low dose of oxycodone (2.5 mg) were sub-therapeutic, failing to elicit analgesia on their own; however, when administered together, pain responses … were significantly reduced, pointing to the opioid-sparing effects of cannabis.” They concluded, “Smoked cannabis combined with an ineffective analgesic dose of oxycodone produced analgesia comparable to an effective opioid analgesic dose without significantly increasing cannabis’s abuse liability.”

The new studies add to the growing body of research finding that cannabis access is associated with reduced rates of opioid use and abuse, opioid-related hospitalizations, opioid-related traffic fatalities, opioid-related drug treatment admissions, and opioid-related overdose deaths.

Additional information regarding the association between cannabis and opioids is available from NORML’s fact-sheet here.