Opportunities - Predicting the risk of opioid use disorder and overdose in patients using cannabis-based medicine and opioids

Predicting the risk of opioid use disorder and overdose in patients using cannabis-based medicine and opioids

University of Alberta



Using medical cannabis in combination with opioids for pain control has been of great interest but under substantial debate. Cannabis-based medicine (CBM) may augment the effect induced by opioids. Although this augmentation may have the potential to reduce dosage of opioids in an ideal situation where both medicines are strictly monitored and controlled, in reality the opioid dosage may not necessarily be decreased in the long term due to the sophisticated interaction between the two medicines and unstable perceived analgesia (inability to feel pain) and side effects. One major concern of using CBM and opioid jointly is that they may eventually lead to an increased risk of opioid use disorder (OUD) and opioid overdose (OO). However, the real-world evidence is still lacking.

In this study, we aim to investigate whether there exists an association between joint CBM and opioid use and future OUD and OO risk using the administrative health data in Alberta through our ongoing collaboration with Alberta Health. We will develop machine learning models to predict OUD and OO in patients who have used CBM and opioids simultaneously at the individual level, and compare the risk factors for OUD and OO in these patients with the risk factors in patients using opioids only. The machine learning model will help to confirm whether the CBM will increase the risk for future OUD and OO in opioid users and stratify this risk for individual patients. This may lead to a potential clinical tool to assist the decision about CBM usage along with opioids. The risk factors specified for CBM and opioid use will help the government to recognize potential targets for future policy adjustments and regulation.


Roles and Responsibilities

We are looking for patients along with their family members (optional), who have used both cannabis-based medicine (CBM) and opioids, especially those who experienced opioid use disorder, opioid overdose, and cannabis use disorder, to be part of an advisory group and contribute their essential lived experience and expertise, and provide input and feedback at three virtual focus-group style meetings.


Meeting # 1 (December 2020)

Before study begins or near the onset; advisors will be asked to review the study materials and provide patient persectives on potential predictors and outcomes.


Meeting # 2 (July 2022)

Mid-term; advisors will be asked to review preliminary findings and challenges and provide feedbacks and comments


Meeting # 3 (estimated 2023)

Study end; advisors will be asked for suggestions about interpreting and disseminating (sharing) the results with patients and the public. We will ask advisors for their suggestions to identify and address potential concerns from the perspective of people with living experience.


Meetings will be held virtually and support will be offered to facilitate technological and digital access.


Time Commitment

This study is expected to start December 2020. There will be three 1-hour online meetings.


Meeting 1: anticipated to be held December 2020 (1 hour online)

Meeting 2: July 2022  (1 hour online)

Meeting 3: Estimated 2023 (1 hour online)



Patient partners/advisors will be recognized with appreciation gifts, and will be acknowledged in relevant publications.


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Bo Cao