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Connecticut Hospice To Study Medical Marijuana As An Alternative to Opioids

According to a recent Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation survey, 1 in 3 long-term prescription painkiller users report being addicted or dependent, and abuse of opioid medications may actually open the door to heroin use.

Is there a better way to treat chronic pain and not expose others to the social issues of opioid addiction? That is exactly what a federally funded medical marijuana study aims to find out, and will be the first of its kind in New England.

In Connecticut alone, heroin related deaths soared from nearly 100 in 2012 to over 400 in 2015. The 6-month hospice study is expected to yield some very valuable results that will help slow the opioid epidemic.

This groundbreaking study, approved late last year and scheduled to roll out this month at The Connecticut Hospice in Branford, will focus on easing pain and improving quality of life for end of life patients. Most hospice patients require opioids to control pain, and as their conditions worsen, they generally see an increase, not a decrease, in addictive pharmaceutical pain medications.

Approximately 65 hospice patients will be enrolled in the program. They will be studied to help determine the benefits and safety of using medical cannabis for pain management. Other side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and low appetite that come with the medications of many hospice patients will also be observed.

Study participants will receive medical marijuana in a capsule form. They will be given the cannabis capsules 3 times a day for 5 days, and every 8 hours they will be accessed for overall quality of life, including pain levels, appetite, depression and respiratory function.

“Everybody deserves to die with dignity.” — Dr. Wen-Jen Hwu, Professor of Medical Oncology at the MD Anderson Cancer Center and Chair of The Connecticut Hospice Professional Advisory Committee.

“It’s about pain management at the end of life or during medical procedures,” says Sen. Blumenthal, ” And that can transform the quality of life for people undergoing medical procedures no matter how serious or at what stage — and it can reduce the costs of health care.”

Connecticut legalized medical marijuana for adults in 2012. The medical marijuana program in Connecticut currently has some 585 registered physicians and nearly 15,000 patients.

The exception to the medical marijuana age restriction in Connecticut is that children under the age of 18 are allowed access to non-smokable medical marijuana if they exhibit severe epilepsy or another terminal illness.

Another study evaluating the effectiveness of medical cannabis as a painkiller has also been given the green light at St. Francis Hospital in Hartford. The state approved St. Francis study will focus on replacing medical cannabis for Oxycodone in patients suffering from traumatic injuries such as rib fractures.