Medical Cannabis vs. Opioids for Chronic Pain Management


For many individuals, opioids are an effective treatment for their chronic pain; however, medical Cannabis, or cannabis, is also becoming a recognized treatment for chronic pain relief. In fact, there is increasing evidence that cannabis is just as effective as opioids in reducing chronic pain symptoms.

How do they compare?

  • Withdrawal from opioids is much more severe than withdrawal from Cannabis.
  • Prescription opioids are legal; however, although medical Cannabis is legal in the majority of states in the U.S., it is not legal on the federal level. Therefore, more federal funding is available for opioid research than for medical Cannabis studies, which means more is known about opioid treatment.
  • Approximately 247,000 deaths from prescription opioid overdoses occurred in the United States from 1999 to 2019, whereas there are no known cases of a Cannabis overdose.
  • The strength and levels of chemicals vary among medical Cannabis products, whereas the level of active medication in prescription opioid products is controlled.
  • Smoking Cannabis can cause lung issues, whereas prescription opioids are not smoked, so they do not pose a danger to the lungs.
  • Both medical Cannabis and opioids pose an extreme danger to children if ingested. They should be locked in a safe place away from children.
  • Cannabis is sometimes used if opioid addiction is an issue. It can help manage opioid withdrawal symptoms when an individual is weaning off opioids.

Extreme caution should be taken when introducing Cannabis or opioids to a pain management plan. If a pain management plan already includes opioids, it is imperative to consult the prescribing physician before introducing medical marijuana. Both medications should be used under the close care of a medical professional to avoid potential overdose and other side effects.

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