Medicinal marijuana increasingly a substitute for prescription drugs: study

KELOWNA, B.C. – Medicinal cannabis is being used instead of prescription drugs including opiate pain killers, according to a study conducted jointly by UBC Okanagan and the University of Victoria.

Among 473 Canadians who participated in the study back in 2013, 80 per cent reported using pot as medicine instead of a drug prescribed by their physician.

“I’ve been working with medical cannabis patients,” says Zach Walsh, UBC Okanagan Associate Professor of Psychology and the primary investigator of the Cannabis Access for Medical Purposes Survey (CAMPS). “I’ve heard their stories and they so often tell me cannabis has allowed them to increase their quality of life by reducing their reliance on other drugs that have difficult side effects.”

Instead of being a gateway drug to other illicit drugs, people who use pot medicinally turn the herb into an exit drug, according to Walsh.

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“When we look at our study, we find that it’s primarily older adults,” says Walsh. “The average age was 40 and we had people going up through their 70’s and even some people in their 80’s who are using cannabis to cut down on other medications.”

The study was the largest Canadian survey of medical cannabis patients to date.

In future studies, UBC Okanagan is looking to compare the risks and benefits of using other substances, such as opiates or alcohol, to the risks and benefits of cannabis.

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