Marijuana May Be Substituting for Opioids for Cancer-Related Pain Relief What are the main findings?

Response: Medical Marijuana Legalization was associated with a 5.5%-19.2% relative reduction in the rate of opioid dispensing (i.e., the rate of receiving at least one opioid prescription) to patients aged 18-64 who were newly diagnosed with breast, colorectal, or lung cancer and receiving cancer treatment. The magnitude of the reduction varied by the type of cancer and whether the patient received prescription opioids prior to their cancer diagnosis. There was no consistent evidence that Medical Marijuana Legalization was associated with changes in pain-related hospital events in this population. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: With increasing medical marijuana legalization, marijuana may be substituting for opioids for cancer-related pain to some extent, with little knowledge about its effectiveness or safety. There is an urgent need for research and practice guidelines to support clinical decisions about marijuana use for cancer-related pain. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Future research should investigate clinician prescribing or recommendation of marijuana to cancer patients, cancer patient uptake, potential drug interactions, polysubstance use, and other safety issues.

No. Disclosures are reported in the published article


Bao Y, Zhang H, Bruera E, et al. Medical Marijuana Legalization and Opioid- and Pain-Related Outcomes Among Patients Newly Diagnosed With Cancer Receiving Anticancer Treatment. JAMA Oncol. Published online December 01, 2022. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2022.5623

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Last Updated on December 2, 2022 by