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Harm Reduct J. 2019 Jan 28;16(1):9. doi: 10.1186/s12954-019-0278-6.

Medical cannabis patterns of use and substitution for opioids & other pharmaceutical drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and illicit substances; results from a cross-sectional survey of authorized patients.

Author information

1
Social Dimensions of Health, University of Victoria, 3800 Finnerty Rd., Victoria, BC, V8P 5C2, Canada. plucas@uvic.ca.
2
, Tilray, 1100 Maughan Rd, Nanaimo, BC, V9X1J2, Canada. plucas@uvic.ca.
3
Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research, 2300 McKenzie Ave, Victoria, BC, V8N 5M8, Canada. plucas@uvic.ca.
4
Cleveland Clinic Neurological Institute, Department of Neurology, Center for Neurological Restoration - Headache and Chronic Pain Medicine , 10524 Euclid Avenue, C21, Cleveland, OH, 44195, USA.
5
Principal Research Scientist; Division of Data Science, Leafly, 71 Columbia Street, Suite 200, Seattle, WA, 98104, USA.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

A 239-question cross-sectional survey was sent out via email in January 2017 to gather comprehensive information on cannabis use from Canadian medical cannabis patients registered with a federally authorized licensed cannabis producer, resulting in 2032 complete surveys.

METHODS:

The survey gathered detailed demographic data and comprehensive information on patient patterns of medical cannabis use, including questions assessing the self-reported impact of cannabis on the use of prescription drugs, illicit substances, alcohol, and tobacco.

RESULTS:

Participants were 62.6% male (n = 1271) and 91% Caucasian (n = 1839). The mean age was 40 years old, and pain and mental health conditions accounted for 83.7% of all respondents (n = 1700). Then, 74.6% of respondents reported daily cannabis use (n = 1515) and mean amount used per day was 1.5 g. The most commonly cited substitution was for prescription drugs (69.1%, n = 953), followed by alcohol (44.5%, n = 515), tobacco (31.1%, n = 406), and illicit substances (26.6%, n = 136). Opioid medications accounted for 35.3% of all prescription drug substitution (n = 610), followed by antidepressants (21.5%, n = 371). Of the 610 mentions of specific opioid medications, patients report total cessation of use of 59.3% (n = 362).

CONCLUSIONS:

This study offers a unique perspective by focusing on the use of a standardized, government-regulated source of medical cannabis by patients registered in Canada's federal medical cannabis program. The findings provide a granular view of patient patterns of medical cannabis use, and the subsequent self-reported impacts on the use of opioids, alcohol, and other substances, adding to a growing body of academic research suggesting that increased regulated access to medical and recreational cannabis can result in a reduction in the use of and subsequent harms associated with opioids, alcohol, tobacco, and other substances.

KEYWORDS:

Addiction; Cannabis; Harm reduction; Marijuana; Opioids; Substitution

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