Chronic pain patients' perspectives of medical cannabis

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Abstract

Medical cannabis (MC) is used for a variety of conditions including chronic pain. The goal of this report was to provide an in-depth qualitative exploration of patient perspectives on the strengths and limitations of MC. Members of MC dispensaries (N = 984) in New England including two-thirds with a history of chronic pain completed an online survey. In response to “How effective is medical cannabis in treating your symptoms or conditions?,” with options of 0% “no relief” to 100% “complete relief,” the average was 74.6% ± 0.6. The average amount spent on MC each year was $3064.47 ± 117.60, median = $2320.23, range = $52.14 to $52,140.00. Open-ended responses were coded into themes and subthemes. Analysis of answers to “What is it that you like most about MC?” (N = 2592 responses) identified 10 themes, including health benefits (36.0% of responses, eg, “Changes perception and experience of my chronic pain.”), the product (14.2%, eg, “Knowing exactly what strain you are getting”), nonhealth benefits (14.1%), general considerations (10.3%), and medications (7.1%). Responses (N = 1678) to “What is it that you like least about MC?” identified 12 themes, including money (28.4%, eg, “The cost is expensive for someone on a fixed income”), effects (21.7%, eg, “The effects on my lungs”), the view of others (11.4%), access (8.2%), and method of administration (7.1%). These findings provide a patient-centered view on the advantages (eg, efficacy in pain treatment, reduced use of other medications) and disadvantages (eg, economic and stigma) of MC.

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