A new Minnesota Department of Health study shows pain patients saw significant relief from medical cannabis, many reporting they even gave up opioids in the process.
Meanwhile, hundreds gathered at the State Capitol today, calling for more support in the fight to end the opioid crisis.
Lobbyists and lawmakers, including DFL Senator Chris Eaton of Brooklyn Center called for stricter opioid regulations and state support for their communities.
"We had more people die in the United States last year from opioid overdose than we did from the Vietnam War."
The same morning, the Minnesota Department of Health released a study Thursday morning into what some say could be an alternative to opioid pain medication: medical cannabis.
The study shows close to half the 2,174 patients who bought medical cannabis within the study's observation period, 42 percent, reported significant pain relief.
Hundreds of patients also reportedly reduced, or eliminated their use of prescription opioids after using medical marijuana.
According to University of Minnesota School of Pharmacy professor Ann Philbrick, the report shows a significant level of effectiveness when it comes to the treatment.
"Generally promising and exciting but it's not too surprising, because I think that people have been using cannabis recreationally for years for pain relief," she said.
Though, based on the current research, Philbrick said she's unsure if anyone can make a final decision on whether it's a safer alternative.
"You can't overdose on marijuana. You can overdose on opioids," she said. "Now with marijuana there's been case reports of people that overuse, overindulge and do maybe dumb things when they're on cannabis, but people can do dumb things under the influence of other drugs."
She said medical cannabis also comes with unique barriers.
"It's not an FDA approved therapy so it's not covered by insurances which is a big barrier," she said. "Opioids are covered by insurances so it makes it a little bit easier to obtain especially for those who are financially limited."
The study also revealed the following:
55 patients reported severe adverse side effects
In the end, Philbrick and the MDH agree, more research needed, as experts consider whether medical cannabis should be a strategy for treating patients suffering from chronic pain.
As for future research, Philbrick suggests studying more patients, and attempting a side by side study, with some patients undergoing opioid treatment, and others medical cannabis.