Factors Associated with Medical Cannabis Use After Certification: A Three-Month Longitudinal Study

Background: Over the past decade, there has been increased utilization of medical cannabis (MC) in the United States. Few studies have described sociodemographic and clinical factors associated with MC use after certification and more specifically, factors associated with use of MC products with different cannabinoid profiles. Methods: We conducted a longitudinal cohort study of adults (N=225) with chronic or severe pain on opioids who were newly certified for MC in New York State and enrolled in the study between November 2018 and January 2022. We collected data over participants’ first 3 months in the study, from web-based assessment of MC use every 2 weeks (unit of analysis). We used generalized estimating equation models to examine associations of sociodemographic and clinical factors with (1) MC use (vs. no MC use) and (2) use of MC products with different cannabinoid profiles. Results: On average, 29% of the participants used predominantly high delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) MC products within the first 3 months of follow-up, 30% used other MC products, and 41% did not use MC products. Non-Hispanic White race, pain at multiple sites, and past 30-day sedative use were associated with a higher likelihood of MC use (vs. no MC use). Current tobacco use, unregulated cannabis use, and enrollment in the study during the COVID-19 pandemic were associated with a lower likelihood of MC use (vs. no MC use). Among participants reporting MC use, female gender and older age were associated with a lower likelihood of using predominantly high-THC MC products (vs. other MC products). Conclusion: White individuals were more likely to use MC after certification, which may be owing to access and cost issues. The findings that sedative use was associated with greater MC use, but tobacco and unregulated cannabis were associated with less MC use, may imply synergism and substitution that warrant further research. From the policy perspective, additional measures are needed to ensure equitable availability of and access to MC. Health practitioners should check patients’ history and current use of sedative, tobacco, and unregulated cannabis before providing an MC recommendation and counsel patients on safe cannabis use. clinicaltrials.gov (NCT03268551).


Keywords:

CBD; COVID-19 pandemic; THC; chronic pain; demographic characteristics; insomnia; medical cannabis; mental health symptoms; opioid use; substance use; unregulated cannabis use.

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