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Study Provides Insights on Marijuana and Opioid Use in People with Cancer

A new study reveals that many people with cancer use marijuana, and rates of use in the U.S. have increased over time. Published early online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, the study also found that patients with cancer are more likely to use prescription opioids than adults without cancer.

Monday, April 22, 2019 12:01 am EDT
"Medical marijuana legalization has previously been associated with a reduction in hospitalizations related to opioid dependence or abuse, suggesting that if patients are in fact substituting marijuana for opioids, this may introduce an opportunity for reducing opioid-related morbidity and mortality"

A new study reveals that many people with cancer use marijuana, and rates of use in the U.S. have increased over time. Published early online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, the study also found that patients with cancer are more likely to use prescription opioids than adults without cancer.

Pain is a common symptom of cancer, and many affected patients do not receive adequate pain relief. In light of rapidly evolving marijuana legislation and a growing opioid epidemic, a team led by Jona Hattangadi-Gluth, MD, and Kathryn Ries Tringale, MD, MAS, of the University of California, San Diego, examined trends in the self-disclosed use of marijuana and opioids among patients with cancer.

After analyzing data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2005 and 2014, the investigators matched 826 people with cancer to 1,652 controls without cancer. Among survey respondents who had cancer, 40.3 percent used marijuana within the past year, compared with 38.0 percent of respondents without cancer. Also, people with cancer were more likely to use prescription opioids than their demographically equivalent counterparts without cancer (13.9 percent versus 6.4 percent).

“Prospective clinical trials are needed to quantify the efficacy of marijuana in cancer-specific pain as well as the risk of opioid misuse in this patient population,” said Dr. Tringale.

When looking at rates of marijuana and opioid use in more than 19,000 survey respondents with and without cancer over 10 years, the researchers found significantly increased use of marijuana over time—likely reflecting increased availability due to legislative changes—but they found stable rates of opioid use. A diagnosis of cancer did not significantly affect the odds of substance use over time from 2005 to 2014.

“Medical marijuana legalization has previously been associated with a reduction in hospitalizations related to opioid dependence or abuse, suggesting that if patients are in fact substituting marijuana for opioids, this may introduce an opportunity for reducing opioid-related morbidity and mortality,” said Dr. Hattangadi-Gluth. “Of course, it will also be important to identify risks and adverse effects of marijuana, which has not previously been studied on large randomized clinical trials, given its scheduling as a class 1 controlled substance.”

Additional Information

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Full Citation:

“The Role of Cancer in Marijuana and Prescription Opioid Use in the United States: A Population-Based Analysis from 2005-2014.” Kathryn Ries Tringale, Minh-Phuong Huynh-Le, Mia Salans, Deborah Marshall, Yuyan Shi, and Jona Hattangadi-Gluth. CANCER; Published Online: April 22, 2019 (DOI: 10.1002/cncr.32059).

URL Upon Publication: http://doi.wiley.com/10.1002/cncr.32059

Author Contact: Michelle Brubaker, at mmbrubaker@ucsd.edu.

About the Journal

CANCER is a peer-reviewed publication of the American Cancer Society integrating scientific information from worldwide sources for all oncologic specialties. The objective of CANCER is to provide an interdisciplinary forum for the exchange of information among oncologic disciplines concerned with the etiology, course, and treatment of human cancer. CANCER is published on behalf of the American Cancer Society by Wiley and can be accessed online.

Follow us on Twitter @JournalCancer

About Wiley

Wiley is a global leader in research and education. Our online scientific, technical, medical, and scholarly journals, and our digital learning, assessment, certification and student-lifecycle services and solutions help universities, academic societies, businesses, governments and individuals to achieve their academic and professional goals. For more than 200 years, we have delivered consistent performance to our stakeholders. The Company's website can be accessed at www.wiley.com.

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Contact:

Penny Smith +44 (0) 1243 770448 (UK)
newsroom@wiley.com

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