Report Spurs Call to Study Marijuana’s Potential in Opioid-Crisis Fight

Article by Mike Hager, The Globe and Mail

A new U.S. government-funded report showing clear evidence cannabis is an effective remedy for those with chronic pain underscores the need for more research into how marijuana can help fight the deadly opioid crisis ravaging North America, according to one of Canada’s leading pain researchers.

A report released Thursday by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine outlined nearly 100 conclusions about the benefits and harms of cannabis on a range of public health and safety issues. Drawing on studies published since 1999, the report by the federal advisory panel stated that marijuana can almost certainly ease chronic pain and might help some people sleep, but it may also raise the risk of developing schizophrenia and trigger heart attacks.

It ended with a call for more scientific information about cannabis so that health-care professionals and policy makers can make sound decisions because the current lack of evidence “poses a public health risk.”

Mark Ware, a McGill pain researcher and vice-chair of Canada’s recent federal panel on marijuana legalization, said one of the biggest takeaways from the new report, which he reviewed before publication, is that new research must now be funded to see whether cannabis can pare down the use of some opioids, a class of legal and illicit painkillers that has led to an ongoing crisis that has killed hundreds of Canadians over the past year.

“So far it’s an association that’s been reported on between states that have legalized cannabis and reductions in opioid mortality and use of other medications,” Dr. Ware said in a telephone interview Thursday. “How can the medical cannabis sphere overlap with the opioid epidemic?

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