Why Do More and More Americans Use Medical Marijuana?

Maricruz Casares
Febrero 8, 2019

TUESDAY, Feb. 5, 2019 (HealthDay News) - Easing chronic pain is the main reason Americans use medical marijuana, a new study finds.

According to the study, about 85 percent of medical marijuana users' reasons for consuming cannabis is supported by "substantial or conclusive" evidence that the drug can help treat their conditions. According to the study, the vast majority of users were seeking treatment for an evidence-based medical condition, with chronic pain accounting for 62.2% of all patient-reported qualifying conditions.

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. After chronic pain, the next 2 common patient reported qualifying conditions were multiple sclerosis spasticity symptoms, followed by chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, posttraumatic stress disorder, and cancer.

Medical marijuana is already legal across several countries around the world, while others have also legalized the recreational use of cannabis.

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Dementia and glaucoma, for example, are conditions where marijuana hasn't proved valuable, but some states include them. Twenty states and the District of Columbia had registry data on patient conditions, and 15 states had data on patient-reported qualifying conditions. California and ME collect minimal or no data on voluntary registries, but Arizona and Colorado publish detailed reports. Three states had missing data because they do not publish reports every year: Michigan, Montana, and Rhode Island. The number of people who are using cannabis to manage their illness is growing rapidly, from 641,176 licenses in 2016 to 813,917 in 2017.

"This finding is consistent with the prevalence of chronic pain, which affects an estimated 100 million Americans", Boehnke said. He added that another reason why chronic pain is probably a dominating condition for cannabis prescription is because "chronic pain is very challenging to manage and treat effectively". Medical cannabis data reflects that challenge, such as the fact that medications indicated for chronic pain don't always work, and they come with unpleasant side effects or carry the risk of addiction, such as opioids. In addition, Boehnke and his co-authors would like to see cannabis removed as a Schedule I substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The researchers argued that it is time for the federal government to change its classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act, which defines it as a drug with no now accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Ideally, the researchers would like to see a nationwide database of medical marijuana patients, where one could combine information from a patient registry with data from clinical trials.

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