A new study has found taking medical marijuana can reduce the amount of benzodiazepines a patient takes.

Canabo Medical Inc., which owns 15 referral clinics for medical marijuana, partnered with external medical researchers for the study, which found 40 per cent of patients with pain and anxiety stopped using benzodiazepines within 90 days of being prescribed medical cannabis. Within one year of the prescription, the number rose to 45 per cent.

Read: Shoppers, Loblaw introduce medical marijuana into benefits plan

Common side-effects of benzodiazepines include dizziness, headaches and memory impairments, while long-term use can lead to concentration problems, addiction and the risk of overdosing.

“We wanted to take a close look at the likelihood of continued benzodiazepine usage after commencing medical cannabis treatments and, to be perfectly honest, the results are extremely promising,” said Dr. Neil Smith, executive chairman of Canabo, in a release. “When conducting this type of research, experts are typically encouraged by an efficacy rate in the neighbourhood of 10 per cent. To see 45 per cent effectiveness demonstrates that the medical cannabis industry is at a real watershed moment.”

The researchers studied 146 patients who were being treated for a variety of disorders with benzodiazepines. The average age was 48, more than half (60 per cent) were female and nearly half (42.9 per cent) were on either a temporary or permanent disability leave. The patients were mostly interested in treatment for pain conditions (61.3 per cent), psychiatric conditions (27.4 per cent) and neurological conditions (11.3 per cent).

Read: 63% of chronic pain, mental-health patients prefer cannabis to opioids: study

In February, researchers in British Columbia found many patients with chronic pain and mental-health conditions prefer cannabis to opioids, sedatives and anti-depressants.

“There’s no risk for addiction or overdose, and therefore there’s no mortality issue when it comes to cannabis,” Philippe Lucas, lead researcher on that study, told Benefits Canada. “Both those things would continue to be a concern for Canadians’ public health when it comes to opioids or benzodiazepines.”

Copyright © 2018 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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