A new report on the use of cannabis and opioids for chronic pain provides evidence that using cannabis to support opioid withdrawal could be an effective harm reduction strategy.
Frequency of cannabis and illicit opioid use among people who use drugs and report chronic pain focuses on people who use drugs (PWUD) in the experience of chronic pain. Among PWUD who experience chronic pain, the use of illicit opioids is a common pain management strategy, which increases the risk of overdose due to contamination.
Using a sample of over 1,000 individuals over the course of three years (2014 to 2017), researchers found that among PWUD with chronic pain, frequent cannabis use resulted in less frequent illicit opioid use. This was due to the support cannabis use provided in pain relief, improved sleep and stress relief.
Specifically, they found that people who used cannabis every day had approximately 50 per cent lower odds of using illicit opioids every day, when compared with cannabis non-users.
The opioid crisis has had a devastating effect on Canada, and its associated harms continue to grow. With increased emergency room visits, hospitalizations and fatal overdoses, it has become the leading cause of death among people aged 30-39. Ontario lost 1,473 people to opioid-related causes in 2018 alone, a 17 per cent increase since 2017.
Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario Division has advocated for a harm reduction approach to the legalization and regulation of cannabis. Read more on CMHA Ontario’s submission on legalization and regulation.
In addition, CMHA Ontario created a resource to support employers in updating their policies in the wake of cannabis legalization. Impairment in the workplace: what your organization needs to know outlines the rights of employers and employees, approaches to responding to impairment in the workplace, and information on how to develop comprehensive and non-stigmatizing policies and accommodations.
CMHA Ontario also created a resource for organizations in taking a harm reduction approach to the opioid epidemic, titled Reducing Harms: Recognizing and Responding to Opioid Overdoses in Your Organization.