BACKGROUND: Cannabinoids are among the psychoactive substances considered as alternatives to opioids for the alleviation of acute pain. We examined whether self-reported marijuana use was associated with decreased use of prescription opioids following traumatic musculoskeletal injury.
METHODS: Our analysis included 500 patients with a musculoskeletal injury who completed a survey about their marijuana use and were categorized as (1) never a user, (2) a prior user (but not during recovery), or (3) a user during recovery. Patients who used marijuana during recovery indicated whether marijuana helped their pain or reduced opioid use. Prescription opioid use was measured as (1) persistent opioid use, (2) total prescribed opioids, and (3) duration of opioid use. Persistent use was defined as the receipt of at least 1 opioid prescription within 90 days of injury and at least 1 additional prescription between 90 and 180 days. Total prescribed opioids were calculated as the total morphine milligram equivalents (MME) prescribed after injury. Duration of use was the interval between the first and last opioid prescription dates.
CONCLUSIONS: Our data indicate that self-reported marijuana use during injury recovery was associated with an increased amount and duration of opioid use. This is in contrast to many patients' perception that the use of marijuana reduces their pain and therefore the amount of opioids used.