Evidence suggests that many patients are seeking natural alternatives and either requesting cannabis or initiating cannabis use on their own, says Michelle Sexton, ND. However, information is lacking on whether cancer patients are intentionally substituting cannabis for prescription drugs.

For a study published in the Journal of Pain Research, Dr. Sexton, James Corroon Jr., ND, MPH, and Laurie Mischley, ND, PhD, MPH, sought to better understand the prevalence of patients who eliminate prescription or over-the-counter medications by substituting them with cannabis. A total of 2,774 patients who reported using cannabis at least once in the previous 90 days were anonymously surveyed. Contributor Michelle Sexton, ND Experience PW Augmented Reality! Now with David Casarett, MD, was tired of hearing hype and half-truths around medical marijuana, so he put on his skeptic’s hat and investigated.

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Nearly one-half (46%) of respondents reported using cannabis as a substitute for prescription drugs. Among them, the most common classes of substituted drugs were narcotics/opioids (35.8%), anxiolytics/benzodiazepines (13.6%), and antidepressants (12.7%). This subgroup reported a total of 2,473 drug substitutions, or approximately two substitutions per patient, on average.

“Our findings stress the importance of physician education for quality interactions with patients on this topic,” says Dr. Sexton. “In some cases, there may be a need for monitoring cancer patients for adverse effects from withdrawal of some medications, and clearly, drug interactions need to be on the doctor’s radar. The findings are also an example of cancer patients taking control of their own healthcare and are representative of the emerging field of patient-centered medicine.”