A combination of marijuana and opioids could be more effective at reducing pain than using each substance alone, new research suggests.
The combination could also help cut patient dependence on opioids to relieve pain, which could decrease the likelihood of developing an addiction to the medication, according to a study presented Tuesday at the American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.
"These data provide additional evidence supporting the notion that opioid-cannabinoid mixtures that or effective for treating pain do not have greater and in some cases have a less, adverse a fax compared with larger doses of each drug," Vanessa Minervini, a researcher at the University of Texas health science Center at San Antonio and study author, said in a news release.
This study aligns with other research that backs the effectiveness of combining marijuana and opioids. These studies propose that the cannabinoids contained in marijuana and opioids work together to heighten the pain-relieving qualities without increasing the addictive effects.
Individually, the two drugs are known to impair cognitive skills. However, when the researchers used the opioid-cannabinoid mixture on rhesus monkeys, they observed no significant increases in memory loss or impulsivity.
The researchers note that these findings come as the nation battles the crippling effects of the opioid epidemic.
More than 130 people in the United States die each day from an opioid overdose, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
"The current opioid epidemic underscores the need for safe and defective pharmacotherapies for treating pain," Minervini said. "Combining opioid receptor antagonists with drugs that relieve pain through actions at non-opioid mechanisms parentheses for example, cannabinoid receptors parentheses could be a useful strategy for reducing the dose of opioid needed to achieve pain relief."