Chronic Pain Given As Top Reason For Using Medical Marijuana

Henrietta Strickland
February 8, 2019

Chronic pain accounted for 62.2% of all patient-reported qualifying conditions under which USA patients sought medical marijuana, according to a new paper in Health AffairsThe research compared state registry data with evidence from the 2017 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medical report on cannabis.

In order to establish the study participants' patterns of use, the researchers grouped their conditions into evidence categories pulled from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report on cannabis and cannabinoids - a review of 10,000 studies on the health effects of medical and recreational cannabis use.

Chronic pain was followed by multiple sclerosis and chemotherapy-induced nausea to round out the top three reasons people use medicinal cannabis.

"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", Boehnke said, in a university announcement about the study. However, there are 33 states that have approved medical marijuana and 10 states where marijuana is legal for recreational use.

An employee, known as a budtender, left, helps a customer, who smells product, at The Station, a retail and medical cannabis dispensary, in Boulder, August 2016.

About two-thirds of the about 730,000 reasons were related to chronic pain, the study found. Patients could report more than one pain condition, so the figure may overestimate patient numbers. However, those qualifying conditions vary by state law. According to the research, chronic pain is the leading cause of medical marijuana consumption.

More than 60 percent of people who use medical marijuana want to relieve chronic pain, according to a study published February in Health Affairs. Less than half of the states had data on patient-reported qualifying conditions and only 20 reported data on the number of registered patients.

Researchers said the finding is consistent with the prevalence of chronic pain, which affects an estimated 100 million Americans. On bad days, her muscles feel like they're being squeezed in a vise. She said she has stopped taking opioid painkillers because marijuana works better for her.

"Cannabis is the first thing I've found that actually makes the pain go away and not leave me so high that I can't enjoy my day", Smith said.

This research provides support for legitimate evidence-based use of cannabis that is at direct odds with its current drug schedule status, notes Boehnke. Despite this fact, at the federal level, marijuana remains a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act, defined as a drug with no now accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.

"Since the majority of states in the USA have legalized medical cannabis, we should consider how best to regulate cannabis and safely incorporate cannabis into medical practice adequately", added Boehnke. More than 800,000 patients were enrolled in medical marijuana programs in 2017 in 19 states.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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