Opioids such as hydrocodone and oxycodone are used to treat chronic noncancer pain after the less risky pain relievers such as acetaminophen and NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen) have failed to relieve symptoms. While opioids offer benefits, they also come with risks. High rates of opioid prescribing mean that more people are being exposed to the risks of opioid overdose. In Canada, the opioid crisis is growing due to the use of illegal and prescribed opioids, and young Canadians aged 15 to 24 are the fastest-growing population affected by opioid overdoses. Furthermore, 94% of opioid deaths are accidental.
Cannabis has been found to be effective at treating chronic pain, reducing dependence on opioids, and reducing the risk of opioid overdose deaths. Moreover, medical cannabis patients report that cannabis is just as effective or more effective than opioid-based medications at controlling pain. Furthermore, based on scientific research, combining cannabis with opioid medications can lower opioid side effects, cravings, and severity of withdrawal. In addition, cannabis increases the effectiveness of opioids allowing for the use of lower doses; therefore, reducing the risk of opioid overdose.
A recent scientific review reported a 64% to 75% reduction in opioid dosage when used in combination with medical cannabis (MC) and a 32 % to 59.3% MC substitution for opioids among patients.
The MC program at the Pain Care Clinics (PCC) is focused on chronic pain management. We help patients learn how to use medical cannabis responsibly and safely, and our physicians guide and monitor cannabis prescriptions. Furthermore, our educational support staff help patients get access to medical cannabis from federally licensed sellers, register with Health Canada to produce their own small amounts of cannabis or designate someone to produce it for them, obtain medical cannabis from provincial or territorial retail outlets, or obtain cannabis from provincially authorized online sales outlets.
At PCC, we provide an evidence-based MC opioid reduction program (MCORP) and proper use of MC based on Canadian National Opioid Guidelines and Mental Wellness support.