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Int J Drug Policy. 2020 Jan 10;76:102657. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2019.102657. [Epub ahead of print]

The relationships between chronic pain and changes in health with cannabis consumption patterns.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco, 3333 California Street Suite 485, San Francisco CA 94118, United States. Electronic address:
Center for Innovation in Pediatric Practice, Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, OH, United States.
College of Social Work, The Ohio State University, Columbus OH, United States.



Pain is the most common reason endorsed by patients seeking medical cannabis. Given the nature of chronic pain, it is particularly important to understand consumption patterns for patients who use cannabis for chronic health conditions to evaluate how frequency of use might impact overall health and functioning. This analysis examines whether levels of chronic pain were associated with cannabis consumption patterns, after controlling for patient-level differences in demographics.


Our sample included 295 medical cannabis patients. Logistic regression models were fit to evaluate the association between pain (low, moderate and high) and dichotomous measures of cannabis consumption (daily vs. nondaily; ≥3 times per day vs. <3 times per day). Additionally, two ordered logit models were fit to evaluate the association between past-year health status change (better, same, or worse) and cannabis consumption.


A significantly higher proportion of respondents in the high pain category used cannabis 3 or more times per day, compared to lower pain categories. Pain level was not significantly associated with daily cannabis use. However, pain level was significantly associated with log odds of using cannabis ≥3 times per day, such that respondents with both high pain and moderate pain had significantly higher log odds of consuming cannabis ≥3 times per day compared to low pain group.


While the efficacy of cannabis for various medical conditions continues to be evaluated, the best available evidence suggests a possible benefit for the treatment of chronic pain. The results of this study indicate that individuals with high pain are more likely to consume cannabis multiple times a day, but this use may not be related to better health. Our results point to a need for more research on the health impacts of frequency of cannabis use among medical cannabis dispensary patients.


Cannabis; Cannabis consumption; Chronic-pain

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