Alton, IL

Cannabis vs. Opioids Studied

Story by WBGZ Radio

In the first peer-reviewed study of Illinois medical cannabis pilot program, researchers hear stories about how patients are leveraging cannabis against the negative effects of opioid use. 

The 30 subjects interviewed most commonly qualified for the state's medical cannabis program by having either rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, spinal cord injury/disease, or cancer. 

Douglas Bruce, associate professor in the Department of Health Sciences at DePaul University, said many of the patients interviewed used cannabis as a counter-measure against opioid-based pain drugs. 

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"Patients described to us three types of approaches to using medical cannabis," he said. "One, as a complementary approach, one as a tapering method of getting off of prescription drugs, and one as an alternative approach without using prescription drugs at all."

Cannabis patients worried about many different facets of opioid-based drugs, including "toxicity, dependence, risk for overdose," Bruce said.

Bruce acknowledged that it's a small sample size but the point of the initial research is to get an idea of what to ask in a larger study. He's now working on a study that received more than 400 responses from medical cannabis patients from across the state. 

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported in August 25,600 people are participating in the pilot program. 

The Workers Compensation Research Institute found that 62 percent of claims in Illinois involved some sort of painkiller, including opioids. 

In addition to Bruce, faculty that coordinated the study included Elissa Foster, College of Communication at DePaul, Mona Shattell, College of Nursing, Rush University, and John P. Brady, University of California-San Diego.

(Copyright WBGZ Radio /


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