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Medi-Pot Most Often Consumed For Pain, Muscle Spasms, Study Says

Thursday, 04 August 2011

"These data suggest that the patient population has evolved from mostly HIV/AIDS and cancer patients to a significantly more diverse array"

Santa Cruz, CA: Patients in California with a physician's recommendation are predominantly using cannabis to treat symptoms of pain, insomnia, and anxiety, according to population data published in the present issue of the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.

Researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz analyzed data from 1,746 consecutive admissions to nine medical marijuana assessment clinics operating throughout California.

Authors reported, "[R]elief of pain, spasms, headache, and anxiety, as well as to improve sleep and relaxation were the most common reasons patients cited for using medical marijuana." Patients typically reported that cannabis provided them with more than one therapeutic benefit, and four in five (79.3 percent) reported having first tried other medications prescribed by their physicians, almost half of which were opiates.

Of those sampled, three-fourths of the patients were male and three-fifths were Caucasian. Compared to the US Census of California, the patients in this sample were on average "somewhat younger, report[ed] slightly more years of formal education, and [were] more often employed." Two-fifths of patients in the sample "had not been using marijuana recreationally prior to trying it for medicinal purposes."

Investigators also reported that patients' use of tobacco was "somewhat higher than in the general population, but [that their] prevalence of alcohol use was significantly lower" than that of the general population. Patients use of other illicit substances, including cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin was also lower than that of the general population.

Over 80 percent of the patients in the sample reported consuming cannabis via inhalation (86.1 percent). Twenty-five percent of patients sampled consumed cannabis orally. Twenty-two percent vaporized cannabis and approximately three percent said that they used the substance topically.

Most patients (40.1 percent) reported consuming up to three grams of cannabis per week. Thirty-six percent of patients reported using four to seven grams of cannabis, and 23.3 percent said they consumed more than seven grams of marijuana per week. A majority of respondents (56.1 percent) said they used cannabis prior to sleep.

Authors concluded: "Compared to earlier studies of medical marijuana patients, these data suggest that the patient population has evolved from mostly HIV/AIDS and cancer patients to a significantly more diverse array. ... This suggests that the patient population is likely to continue evolving as new patients and physicians discover the therapeutic uses of cannabis."

For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org. Full text of the study, "Who are medical marijuana patients? Population characteristics from nine California assessment clinics," appears in The Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.