Cannabis use and opioid relapse: An exploratory survival analysis of prospectively collected data

Leen Naji, Tea Rosic, Nitika Sanger, Brittany Dennis, Alannah Hillmer, Jacqueline Hudson, Andrew Worster, James Paul, David C. Marsh, Lehana Thabane, Zainab Samaan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Importance: It is known that only minority of patients with opioid use disorder (OUD) receive treatment, of which only a fraction successfully complete treatment as intended. Factors associated with poor treatment outcomes remain unclear, and there is emerging but conflicting evidence that cannabis use may mitigate opioid use. Objective: To analyze predictors of relapse amongst patients receiving buprenorphine-naloxone for OUD and identify the association between cannabis use and time to relapse. Design: Data were prospectively collected between May 2018 and October 2020, and patients were followed for 12 months. Setting: Thirty-one outpatient opioid agonist treatment clinics across Ontario, Canada. Participants: All patients 16 years of age or older receiving buprenorphine-naloxone for OUD who had a urine toxicology screen negative for opioids at baseline were eligible for inclusion. Of the 488 patients consecutively sampled, 466 were included. Exposure: Cannabis use. Main outcome and measure: Relapse to opioid use assessed using urine toxicology screens. We employed a multivariable Cox-proportional hazard model for our analyses. Results: We found that cannabis use was not protective against relapse [hazard ratio (HR) = 1.03, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.78, 1.36, p = 0.84]. We found that participants who have been in treatment for at least two years had a 44% decrease in the hazard of relapse compared to those in treatment for less than a year (HR = 0.56, 95% CI: 0.34, 0.92, p = 0.021). We also found that the hazard of relapse was 2.6 times higher for participants who were intravenous drug users (HR = 2.61, 95% CI: 1.74, 3.91, p < 0.001), and that for every 1mg increase in the participants’ buprenorphine-naloxone dose, the hazard of relapse is 2% greater (HR = 1.02, 95% CI: 1.01, 1.03, p < 0.001). Conclusion: Our analysis failed to show cannabis to be protective against relapse to opioid use in patients receiving buprenorphine-naloxone for OUD. We identified that individuals who inject drugs, are on higher doses of buprenorphine-naloxone, or have been in treatment for less than two years have a higher hazard for relapse. The presence of such factors may thus warrant closer patient follow-up and more stringent treatment protocols to mitigate risk of relapse and potential overdose.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1046649
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
StatePublished - Nov 16 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • buprenorphine
  • cannabis use
  • opioid agonist therapy
  • opioid use disorder
  • relapse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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