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Research Shows Opioids Largely Ineffective Against Chronic Pain

A study published in the journal JAMA shows that opioids are only slightly more effective than placebo medications at treating chronic non-cancer pain, and their effectiveness declines over time, CNN reports.

The study shows no significant benefit for most adults with chronic pain when treated with opioids. In fact, for chronic pain, opioids were shown to be approximately as effective as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Ibuprofen. The study also found an increase in negative side effects like vomiting and constipation associated with using opioids for chronic pain.

In one subsection of the analysis, it’s shown that synthetic cannabinoids seem equally as effective as opioids for treating pain, which appears to support the argument that medical cannabis can be an effective treatment for chronic pain — at the very least, it should encourage further research.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have issued guidelines in an attempt to stem the tide of opioid addiction that began in the early 1990s, when opioids were considered a wonder drug with an unlikely chance for addiction.

One of the study’s authors, Jason Busse of McMaster University in Ontario, said the CDC guidelines, however, do not include nearly as many high-quality research papers as the latest meta-analysis.

Busse said of people who are considering opioids as a treatment for their chronic pain: “Now they have the evidence to understand what their chances are of achieving meaningful improvement.”

With these findings, however, it’s clear that opioids should not be the first, second, or even third option — and medical cannabis deserves further studying as an option with fewer side effects that may well be more effective for chronic pain patients.

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