Characteristics of Cannabis and Opioid Users Among Older U.S. Veterans and Their Health Outcomes: A Longitudinal Perspective


doi: 10.1080/02791072.2023.2186286.


Online ahead of print.

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Hyojung Kang et al.


J Psychoactive Drugs.


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Abstract

Medical cannabis use among U.S. Veterans has continued to rise. However, data on cannabis use by older Veterans is generally less available. This study aims to understand the characteristics of older Veterans who enrolled in the Medical Cannabis Patient Program in Illinois and analyze their health outcomes and co-use of cannabis and opioids using longitudinal survey data. Overall, participants reported positive outcomes for pain, sleep, and emotional problems because of cannabis use in two survey periods. Approximately, 62% and 85% respondents reported no change in memory and falls, respectively, with only 3% and 1% reporting a negative outcome for the conditions in both surveys. About 20.4% of those who indicated cannabis use only in the initial survey started to co-use opioids in the follow-up survey, while 44.1% of those who indicated the use of both substances in the initial survey reported no longer using opioids in the follow-up survey. However, these changes were not statistically significant (α=0.05). The logistic regression showed that both clinical and contextual factors affected co-use. In conclusion, older U.S. Veterans may be using cannabis to alleviate their pain and other chronic conditions. More research is needed to understand the effect of cannabis use on reducing or substituting opioids.


Keywords:

Substance co-use; Veterans; health outcomes; medical cannabis; opioids.

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