Over the years, medical marijuana has found itself consistently in the media spotlight. Many hold the opinion that marijuana does not contain medicinal properties, but key studies have demonstrated over time that it does. Most recently, The Journal Of Rheumatology published a study demonstrating how medical marijuana is extremely beneficial for pain management. Medical marijuana has also found its place in mental health, as evidenced in this study for therapeutic purposes.
As evidence continues to grow in support of medical marijuana, there are fewer obstacles in researching different methods of medical marijuana application. More hospitals, hospices and research centers are designing innovative research to fully unlock the medicinal benefits of marijuana and educate the greater public.
One such entity that has taken up the research is The Connecticut Hospice in Branford. This Connecticut hospice will study medical marijuana as an alternative to opioids. They are currently slated to roll out a groundbreaking federally funded study to explore this, and New England will be the first region to take this research on.
Before delving in to the study, it is important to understand why this issue was the one chosen to explore. Recent studies have found that within long-term prescription painkiller users, 1 in 3 users report being either dependent or addicted. Adding to this, there is also increasing evidence of opioid medication abuse potentially leading to heroin use.
Currently, medical marijuana has been legal in Connecticut since 2012 for adults. As it stands, their medical marijuana program has close to 585 registered physicians and 15,000 patients. The study aims to find if there is a method through which chronic pain can be treated while avoiding the negative social issues caused by opioid addiction. Connecticut has seen a large spike in heroin related deaths between 2012 and 2015, going from 100 to 400 in the span of four years.
With opioid usage spiking, and the legality of medical marijuana, there is still a vast dearth in knowledge on how to bridge the gap between the two. Finding alternatives to opioids is imperative in preventing further addiction while presenting a feasible alternative to patients for pain management and quality of life improvement.
The hope is that this 6 month hospice study will provide insight and results on how best to curtail the opioid epidemic. Usually, most hospice patients need opioids for pain management and as their conditions worsen, usage of addictive pharmaceutical pain medications generally increases. This helps pave the way for opioid addiction down the line, and is detrimental for many patients.
The study was approved last year, and is currently slated to begin this month. Sixty five patients are currently set to enroll. The study’s primary focus is to improve quality of life, ease pain and observe the associated benefits and safety measures. Common side effects such as a loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting will also be studied during this time to create a more holistic picture.
During the study period, participants will receive medical marijuana via capsule. The capsule is administered 3 times a day for 5 days. Every 8 hours, their quality of life overall will be measured. These include appetite, depression, pain levels and respiratory function.
United States Senator Rick Blumenthal expanded on this, stating, “It’s about pain management at the end of life or during medical procedure…And that can transform the quality of life for people undergoing medical procedures no matter how serious or at what stage — and it can reduce the costs of health care.”
Moreover, other studies in the area of medical marijuana effectiveness are beginning to be approved in other parts of Connecticut. St. Francis Hospital in Hartford was recently given approval for this topic recently. Their study’s key focus is on replacing Oxycodone with medical marijuana for patients suffering from traumatic injuries.