TUESDAY, July 2, 2019 (HealthDay News) — In places where it’s legal, people are often turning to pot to relieve pain and insomnia, a new study finds.
For many, cannabis is replacing over-the-counter painkillers, prescription opioids and sleep aids.
“These aren’t the only reasons people are using marijuana, but it’s one of the drivers for use,” said study author Dr. Gwen Wurm, an assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
“People who are using it for those reasons are finding it to be effective,” she said.
The findings stem from a survey of 1,000 people who use marijuana in Colorado, where it is legal. Of the 65% who said they use pot to quell pain, 80% said it was very or extremely helpful.
A similar percentage said they had been able to cut back on use of over-the-counter painkillers by using pot instead, and 88% said they stopped taking opioids, the study found.
Three-quarters of the interviewees said they used pot to help them sleep. Of those, 84% said it helped, and 83% said they were no longer using over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids.
Compared with other drugs, cannabis is safe, Wurm believes.
On the plus side, marijuana users are not at risk of the respiratory arrest opioids can cause, and pot won’t make you dependent as some sleep medicines do, she said.
“That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have its own risks,” Wurm cautioned. “But until we can begin to study cannabis use, we are really not going to know how best to counsel patients.”
Other pain and sleep medications can have serious side effects, Wurm noted. Opioid addiction is an epidemic in the United States, and fatal overdoses are not uncommon. And over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen can cause stomach bleeding if used for extended periods, Wurm said.
Also, people can become dependent on sleeping pills, which leave them groggy during the day and affect their work, she said.
However, marijuana is still a drug with its own addictive properties and risks, another expert warned.