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Does Cannabis Use Reduce Opioid Use? Dr. Uma Says® “Cannabis The Exit Drug”®

Principal Investigator: Uma V.A. Dhanabalan, MD, MPH, FAAFP, MRO, CMS with Global Health & Health Solutions / Uplifting Health & Wellness

Graduate Student Researchers: Christa P. Potter, BSN RN & Amanda Crouch, BSN RN, Simmons University School of Nursing and Health Sciences

Research Associate: Jennifer A. Richardson, BSN RN

Faculty Advisor & Section Instructor: Jeanette Plodek, PhD RN CS Holistic Nursing

Statistical Analysis: Tanya Cohn, PhD MEd RN, Simmons Associate Professor of Practice


Dr. Uma Dhanabalan’s mission is to change the stigma about cannabis and for the world to know about the Endocannabinoid system and she does it through education. Cannabis was legal in the United States of America and  listed in the United States Pharmacopeia from 1850 to 1942. Cannabis was prescribed by doctors for the treatment of opioid addiction, alcoholism, insanity, pain and other conditions.


Cannabis has been a Schedule I drug since 1970, due to the Controlled Substance Act (CSA). It means Cannabis has a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use and lack of accepted safety. Opioid overdose deaths in the United States have risen 35% since 2015 reaching 70,630 in 2019 and a record high of  93, 331 in 2020.


A retrospective, longitudinal, case-control study of  30 adults with a diagnosis of chronic pain. The adults certified as Medical Marijuana (Cannabis) patients at Uplifting Health & Wellness in Massachusetts with follow up visits over one year. The outcome variables were related to changes in the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) for opioids, narcotics and total number of  medications, change in pain score and quality of life (QOL)


The study sample included a total of 30 patients ages > 18 of which (60%) 18 males, (40%) 12 females. The statistical significance was set at a p-value of 0.05. Of the 30 patients (93%) 23 reported a statistically significant reduction in pain from their first visit (M= 6.5, SD = 2.0), on their  second visit (M= 4.3, SD = 2.2) (p<.001 and on their third visit (M = 3.9, SD = 2.2) (p<.001). There was a statistically significant decrease in the number of prescription medications from their first visit (M = 6.3, SD = 6.8) on their second visit (M = 5.1, SD = 6.5) (p<.001) and on their third visit (M = 4.7, SD = 7.0) (p<.001). There was a statistically significant decrease in the total number of medications positive in their prescription monitoring program (PMP) from their first visit (M = 1.4, SD = 1.7) on their second visit (M = .87, SD = 1.5) (p = .001) and on their third visit (M = .67, SD = 1.1) (p = .01)


The study results showed statistically significant reductions in prescription and non-prescription medications—including opioids, narcotics, and other pharmaceuticals, as well as a decrease in pain; a decrease in the total number of medications; and an improvement in QOL.


Cannabis can be a safe alternative to other treatment modalities for managing chronic pain and improving quality of life (QOL) while reducing overall harm. Dr. Uma Says® “Cannabis is not for everyone, yet it should be a first line option, not the last resort; Cannabis is an entrance into a better quality of life, an exit drug from pharmaceuticals, narcotics alcohol and nicotine.” Cannabis The Exit Drug® Further research is needed to show the efficacy of cannabis with different populations and various conditions.


Dr. Uma Dhanabalan, MD MPH FAAFP MRO CMS

Family Medicine; Occupational & Environmental Medicine; Cannabinoid Medicine


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