According to new data from research conducted at the University of Houston (UH), adults who take prescription opioids and use cannabis are more likely to experience increased anxiety, depression, and substance abuse issues.
While there have been efforts to help curb the modern opioid epidemic, the drugs remain the most widely-prescribed class of medications for chronic pain management.
With the wave of medicinal and adult-use cannabis legalization that has swept the United States in recent times, an increasing number of people have turned to cannabinoid-based medicine rather than opioids to treat their pain.
Andrew Rogers, a doctoral student in clinical psychology who works in the UH Anxiety and Health Research Laboratory and its Substance Use Treatment Clinic, says that problems can arise when people use opioids in conjunction with cannabis.
Rogers says that substance co-use is generally associated with poorer outcomes than single substance use, but that there has been little research done on the impact of combining opioids with cannabis.
“There’s been a lot of buzz that maybe cannabis is the new or safe alternative to opioids, so that’s something we wanted to investigate,” said Rogers in a statement. “The findings highlight a vulnerable population of polysubstance users with chronic pain and indicates the need for more comprehensive assessment and treatment of chronic pain.”
For the study, Rogers surveyed 450 adults across the U.S. who had experienced moderate to severe pain for more than three months.
Results showed that those who added cannabis to their opioid regimen experienced increased anxiety and depression symptoms as well as tobacco, alcohol, cocaine, and sedative use.
Increased pain reduction was not reported among those surveyed.