The majority of people at high risk of overdose in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside use cannabis for pain relief and other therapeutic reasons, a research paper suggests, and this could lower their risk of overdosing on opioids.
Between 2016 and 2018, researchers from the BC Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU) and the University of British Columbia (UBC) interviewed 897 illicit drug users who reported using cannabis in Vancouver’s downtown and Downtown Eastside.
The interviewees were asked to describe the reasons they used cannabis. Researchers discovered most used it for therapeutic reasons.
“We’re seeing more and more in our research that people are using cannabis for therapeutic reasons,” Stephanie Lake, a doctoral candidate at UBC’s School of Population and Public Health and the lead author of the study, said. “We’re also seeing that, for some individuals in our study, this therapeutic use corresponds with either less use of illicit opioids or a reduced risk of overdose.”
Researchers also discovered that cannabis users had lower odds of experiencing a non-fatal opioid overdose or injecting heroin daily compared to other groups.
BCCSU previously discovered that many people at risk of overdose potentially were using cannabis to reduce their reliance on illicit opioids. This was especially true for those living with pain.