Medical marijuana is a potent method of treating chronic pain in older adults who had been relying on opioids, a Long Island doctor has found in a research project of people mostly in their 60s who suffered from a wide range of pain syndromes.
The survey by Northwell Health coincides with the New York State Department of Health declaring opioid use a qualifying condition for medical marijuana. People can be weaned from opioids by treating chronic pain with medical cannabis, state health officials said Tuesday.
Local doctors already have compelling evidence that medical marijuana helps wean chronic pain patients from heavy-duty narcotic medications.
“What we found was that the patients overwhelmingly had a reduction in their pain with medical cannabis and a reduction in their use of painkillers of all kinds,” said Dr. Diana Martins-Welch, a co-author of the study. She is a specialist in geriatric and palliative medicine at the health system’s division in Manhasset.
She and her colleagues conducted a survey of medical marijuana users between the ages of 61 and 70 and found that 65 percent of them reported relief from chronic pain caused by a wide range of conditions.
Some patients had osteoarthritis, others had painful hips and knees that, for a variety of medical reasons, could not be replaced with artificial joints. Still others suffered from spinal stenosis, which generally occurs when the spaces within the spinal column narrow significantly, putting pressure on spinal nerves. The result is excruciating, round-the-clock pain for which many doctors routinely have prescribed an opioid.
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Despite the favorable findings, more studies of medical marijuana and its pain-relieving properties are needed because not enough information is