Chronic Pain Tops The Reasons Patients Seek Medical Marijuana

More than 60 percent of people who use medical marijuana are doing so to relieve chronic pain

More than 60 percent of people who use medical marijuana are doing so to relieve chronic pain

"We did this study because we wanted to understand the reasons why people are using cannabis medically and whether those reasons for use are evidence-based", said the study's leading author, Kevin Boehnke, from the University of MI.

To examine patterns of use, the researchers grouped patient-reported qualifying conditions (i.e. the illnesses/medical conditions that allowed a patient to obtain a license) into evidence categories pulled from a recent National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report on cannabis and cannabinoids. That's followed by stiffness from multiple sclerosis and chemotherapy-related nausea.

"The majority of patients for whom we have data are using cannabis for reasons where the science is the strongest", said Kevin Boehnke of the University of MI.

As of 2018, medical marijuana use is legal in 33 states and the District of Columbia, while recreational use is legal in 10 states. The authors also noted that the number of licensed medical users, with 641,176 registered medical cannabis patients in 2016 and 813,917 in 2017, was likely far lower than the actual number of users.

Of all patient-reported qualifying conditions, however, 85.5% had either substantial or conclusive evidence of therapeutic efficacy, according to the study, led by Kevin F. Boehnke, Ph.D., a research investigator in anesthesiology and the Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center at the University of MI in Ann Arbor.

Chronic pain accounted for 62.2% of all patient-reported qualifying conditions under which U.S. patients sought medical marijuana, according to a new paper in Health Affairs.

Seeking to find out how Americans are using medical marijuana, researchers at the University of MI used data from state registries to identify patterns of use. Lists of allowable conditions vary by state, but in general, a doctor must certify a patient has an approved diagnosis.

"This finding is consistent with the prevalence of chronic pain, which affects an estimated 100 million Americans", Boehnke said.

Brandian Smith, 37, of Pana, Ill., qualified for her medical marijuana license because she has fibromyalgia.

She told the Associated Press that on bad days, her muscles feel like they're being squeezed in a vise. She said she stopped taking opioid painkillers because marijuana works better for her. The findings might surprise some critics who believe most people go to dispensaries to procure marijuana for recreational use. Schedule I means a substance has no medical use and has a high potential for abuse; because of the classification it is hard to conduct clinical trials on marijuana.

This study provides support for legitimate evidence-based use of medical marijuana that challenges its current federal drug status, Boehnke said.

"Since the majority of states in the USA have legalized medical cannabis, we should consider how best to adequately regulate cannabis and safely incorporate cannabis into medical practice", said Boehnke. So most people are using medical marijuana to treat conditions that we know will be helped by cannabis.

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