Four states have legalized medical cannabis for the purpose of treating opioid use disorder. It is unclear whether cannabinoids improve or exacerbate opioid withdrawal. A more thorough examination of cannabis and its impact on specific symptoms of opioid withdrawal is warranted.
Two hundred individuals recruited through Amazon Mechanical Turk with past month opioid and cannabis use and experience of opioid withdrawal completed the survey. Participants indicated which opioid withdrawal symptoms improved or worsened with cannabis use and indicated the severity of their opioid withdrawal on days with and without cannabis.
62.5% (n = 125) of 200 participants had used cannabis to treat withdrawal. Participants most frequently indicated that cannabis improved: anxiety, tremors, and trouble sleeping. A minority of participants (6.0%, n = 12) indicated cannabis worsened opioid withdrawal, specifically symptoms of yawning, teary eyes, and runny nose. Across all symptoms, more participants indicated that symptoms improved with cannabis compared to those that indicated symptoms worsened with cannabis. Women reported greater relief from withdrawal with cannabis use than men.
These results show that cannabis may improve opioid withdrawal symptoms and that the size of the effect is clinically meaningful. It is important to note that symptoms are exacerbated with cannabis in only a minority of individuals. Prospectively designed studies examining the impact of cannabis and cannabinoids on opioid withdrawal are warranted.