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Medical Cannabis Reduces the Need for Prescribed Narcotics and Sedatives

A Summary of an Internet Poll Conducted


The American Alliance for Medical Cannabis

Jay R. Cavanaugh, PhD

National Director

January 2003


During the month of January, 2003, the Alliance featured a front page website poll for medical cannabis patients. This is the fourth poll in our series and possibly the most important. As the chart below details, patients were asked how their use of medical cannabis had affected their use of prescribed narcotic and/or sedative medication. Over 100 patients responded.


Even with offering the usual disclaimer about the lack of science in website polling, it is obvious that some startling results are evident in patient experience as self reported in an anonymous fashion. This initial patient survey should be followed by a rigorous epidemiologic study if only the government would allow much less fund such a study.



Is Cannabis Medicine Opiate and Sedative “Sparring”?


My utilization of adjunctive therapy with medical cannabis has had the following effect on my other prescribed medications:




 1.)  1) Allowed me to reduce prescribed narcotic medication



 2.)  2) Allowed me to reduce other sedative medication



 3.)  3) Allowed me to eliminate narcotic medication



 4.)  4) Allowed me to eliminate other sedative medication



 5.)  5) Has had no effect on my use of other prescribed narcotic/sedative medication



 6.)  6) Forced me to increase my use of prescribed narcotic/sedative medication











Total Votes:  115


Earlier AAMC polls indicated that the largest fraction of patients utilizing adjunctive therapy with medical cannabis suffer from chronic pain conditions (42%). Chronic psychiatric disorders including depression (26%) make up the second largest category. The vast majority of patients suffering from chronic pain and/or psychiatric disorders are prescribed narcotics and/or sedative medication, often for extended periods or even life long. The United States has a serious problem with the abuse and addiction to prescribed narcotics and sedatives. Patients struggle with the difficult problems of pain management and mood stabilization. Many patients find that the medicines required for their conditions significantly and negatively affect their lives. These medicines include the major narcotics like OxyContin, morphine, Fentanyl skin patches, minor narcotics particularly hydrocodone (Vicodin), and sedatives such as the benzodiazepines Ativan, Clonopin, Xanex, and Restoril.


What the poll clearly shows is that the vast majority of patients are able to eliminate or reduce narcotic medication (69 patients or 60%) while an equally astonishing 36 patients or 32% have been able to eliminate or reduce sedative medication. Only eight patients (7%) experienced no reduction and only an insignificant 2 patients (<2%) claimed an increase in either narcotics or sedatives when utilizing medical cannabis.  


All medicines are evaluated by both their risks and their benefits. Narcotics and sedatives can be effective and often necessary medicines but they contain major risks including addiction, tolerance, sedation, liver damage, accidents, trauma, rebound effects, depression and other personality changes, insomnia, and overdose. The poll indicates that medical cannabis too is highly effective for many patients with far fewer major risks those being mild hypotension, transient rapid heart beat, mild tolerance, and rare cases of dissociative events.


This poll should force the attention of physicians, other health care providers, and decision makers for two clear and demonstrable reasons:


1)       Medically supervised regimes of adjunctive therapy with medical cannabis provide real symptomatic relief from disabling chronic conditions.

2)       Medical cannabis is a major harm reduction tool that significantly reduces or eliminates the inevitable harm from long term use of prescribed narcotics and sedatives.


The most serious charge against the medical use of cannabis is that such use will lead to “harder” drugs. This AAMC poll demonstrates that the opposite is true. Medical cannabis is frequently a way out of life long addiction to narcotics and sedatives.  



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