Majority of Consumers Utilize Marijuana for Health Purposes, Yet Few Refer to it as ‘Medical,’ According to AMA Study

Majority of Consumers Utilize Marijuana for Health Purposes, Yet Few Refer to it as 'Medical,' According to AMA StudyAuthors of a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) have shed light on the complex relationship between medical and recreational marijuana use. The study, which analyzed survey responses from over 175,000 individuals, revealed that the traditional medical-recreational binary may not fully capture how people engage with cannabis.

The findings indicated that while a significant percentage of patients (76.1%) reported using cannabis to manage various health symptoms, very few identified themselves as medical cannabis users. This discrepancy highlights the need for a more nuanced understanding of cannabis use patterns and underscores the limitations of relying solely on self-identification as a recreational or medical user.

Of those who reported using marijuana, only 15.6% stated that their use was strictly for medical purposes, while 31.1% used it for both medical and nonmedical reasons. The majority of users cited symptom management as their primary reason for cannabis consumption, with common symptoms including pain, stress, and sleep issues.

The researchers emphasized the importance of healthcare providers inquiring about specific symptoms addressed by cannabis use rather than categorizing patients into broad medical or recreational user groups. They noted that many patients may not disclose their cannabis use if not directly asked about symptom management.

The study, conducted at a large university-based healthcare system in Los Angeles, revealed that approximately 17% of patients surveyed reported using marijuana. Among these individuals, over a third were identified as being at moderate to high risk for cannabis use disorder (CUD), highlighting the potential risks associated with regular cannabis consumption.

Risk for CUD was assessed using the Alcohol Substance Involvement Screening Test (ASSIST), modified by the National Institute of Drug Abuse. The scoring algorithm was further adjusted to identify patients experiencing health or social consequences due to their cannabis use, with thresholds for low and moderate risk revised accordingly.

The data also indicated that male patients and younger adults were more likely to be at moderate to high risk for CUD. Healthcare providers were encouraged to conduct routine screenings and provide interventions for patients at risk of developing CUD.

Furthermore, patients using cannabis to manage multiple symptoms were flagged as potentially higher risk for CUD. Despite the widespread use of cannabis for symptom management, there is limited evidence available to guide clinicians on advising patients about the benefits and risks associated with cannabis use.

Interestingly, the study found that while cannabis use was less prevalent among patients in disadvantaged neighborhoods, those individuals were at higher risk for CUD. The impact of neighborhood socioeconomic factors on substance use behaviors remains an area of ongoing research.

In conclusion, the study’s authors recommended that healthcare systems implement routine screening procedures to identify patients using cannabis for symptom management. By integrating screening efforts and documenting medical cannabis usage more comprehensively, clinicians can better address patient needs and mitigate potential risks associated with cannabis consumption.

The evolving landscape of marijuana legalization and regulation underscores the need for continued research into patterns of cannabis use and associated health outcomes. By staying informed about emerging trends in cannabis consumption, healthcare providers can better support their patients’ holistic well-being.

Dr. Paul Miller, MD

Dr. Miller is committed to finding new and innovative ways to help his patients manage their symptoms and improve their overall quality of life. He has a particular interest in the therapeutic potential of medical cannabis and is passionate about educating both his colleagues and patients on its safe and effective use. He is also committed to continuing his education and staying up-to-date on the latest advances in neurology and cannabis research.

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