Cannabis might improve treatment outcomes for people in care for opioid addiction and reduce risk brought by accidental fentanyl exposure, according to research published in the Drug and Alcohol Dependence journal outlined by Medical Xpress.
The University of British Columbia and BC Centre on Substance Abuse (BCCSU) study included 819 participants with 53 percent either intentionally or accidentally using fentanyl despite being treated for opioid addiction with treatments like methadone or buprenorphine/naloxone. The researchers found that participants who had urine tests positive for THC were about 10% less likely to have fentanyl-positive urine which puts them at a lower risk for overdoing on the opioid.
Dr. Eugenia Socías, the study’s lead author and clinician-scientist at BCCSU, said the “findings suggest that cannabis could have a stabilizing impact for many patients on treatment, while also reducing the risk of overdose.”
Previous BCCSU research found that individuals on opioid agonist treatments, such as methadone, who reported using cannabis on a daily basis were 21% more likely to continue addiction treatment at six months than non-cannabis users, the report says.
BCCSU is set to work with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research on further evaluating the role of cannabis as a potential adjunct therapy to opioid agonist treatments.
Canadian researchers have found that without access to and rapid expansion of take-home naloxone, overdose prevention services, and opioid analog treatments, the number of overdose deaths in B.C. would be 2.5 times higher than current levels; but patient retention on these medications remains a challenge despite more individuals with opioid-use disorder being connected to treatments, the report says.
Several U.S. medical cannabis programs include opioid-use disorder as a qualifying condition for access as studies have suggested that cannabis could be used as an opioid replacement therapy or exit drug for addicts.
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