A cannabis extract could soon become an accepted alternative to opiates for pain management in the elderly, says a Sarnia physician just back from a speaking tour.
Dr. Blake Pearson has been using cannabidiol oil, or CBD, to treat patients at Sarnia’s Trillium Villa nursing home.
Last month he shared his finding as a guest speaker at the CannX Conference in Tel Aviv, Israel; the CannMed conference at the University of California in Los Angeles; and Health Quality Ontario’s Transformation Conference in Toronto.
“The data is pretty compelling,” Pearson told The Journal. “We were able to reduce the amount of opiates (fentanyl and Percocet) in patients with chronic pain.”
The oil has shown itself helpful with dementia and agitation as well, he said.
“We were able to wean patients off of antipsychotic medications.”
The case studies involved six patients at Trillium over a six-month period. Positive effects were observed after the first month, he said.
Residents in Canada’s long-term homes use twice as many opioids and three times as many antidepressants as seniors in the community.
On average, residents of homes take 9.9 different classes of medication compared to 6.7 in the community.
The concurrent use of multiple medications is the number one cause of hospitalization involving adverse drug reactions in seniors.
Pearson said he hopes his findings result in larger controlled research trials. He also hopes CBD treatment will gain greater acceptance within the medical community.
“We’re starting to build a body of evidence and it’s exciting,” he said. “This has the potential to treat pain, sleep disorders and dementia behaviours.”
Pearson admits there’s “trepidation” in the medical community and some doctors aren’t comfortable prescribing medical cannabis, even though it’s now legal.
Nor is there much education about medical cannabis in medical schools, he said.
Despite the encouraging results, however, people need to be careful when they begin using CBD, and they shouldn’t self-medicate because the active compounds can interact negatively with other medications, he added.
“People need to be monitored and weaned (off medications) in a controlled fashion.”