Marijuana May Be Substituting for Opioids for Cancer-Related Pain Relief

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Yuhua Bao, PhD
Department of Population Health Sciences, Department of Psychiatry
Weill Cornell Medicine, New York, New York

Dr. Yuhua Bao

PainRelief.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: We know that opioid use is declining among cancer patients. We also know that marijuana use is increasing among cancer patients; this increase is related to the recent wave of medical marijuana legalization (adopted by 37 states and D.C. as of Feb 2022).

We do not know if medical marijuana legalization has led to changes in opioid use for cancer patients and what were the implications for cancer pain outcomes.

Study Highlights Challenges of Opioid Use Disorder in Patients with Cancer Pain

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Katie Fitzgerald Jones MSN, APN
PhD candidate Connell School of Nursing
Boston College
Jonas Mental Health Scholar 2021-2023
American Academy of Nursing Jonas Policy Scholar 
Ruth L. Kirschstein National Service Award (F31NR019929-01)

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study? 

Response: I am a Palliative and Addiction Nurse Practitioner at VA Boston and a Ph.D. candidate at Boston College Connell School of Nursing. In my clinical practice, I regularly care for people with cancer who have a co-occurring substance use disorder. 

How to best care for people with substance use disorders, such as opioid use disorder is especially complex in people with cancer because opioid management is a standard of cancer-pain management and cancer prognoses can influence opioid decisions and vary. It is important when prescribing opioids that you attend to safety while also addressing pain. People with untreated opioid use disorder or concerning opioid behaviors (such as taking more opioids than prescribed or using opioids with unprescribed medications that increase the risk for opioid-related harm such as benzodiazepines) have an increased risk for opioid related-harms. It is also an area that lacks consensus and is absent from cancer-specific pain guidelines.

This study was conducted with leaders in palliative care including senior author, Jessica Merlin to tackle the question of what is consensus among palliative care and addiction clinicians to caring for people with opioid misuse or use disorder and cancer-related pain and how this is influenced by prognosis?