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Who Are America’s Medical Marijuana Patients

california-marijuana-state-imageAnalysis by California NORML coordinator Dale Gieringer, Ph.D

An interesting new study of the California medical cannabis user population by Prof. Craig Reinarman et al. appears in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs 43(2) Apr-Jun, 2011: “Who Are Medical Marijuana Patients? Population Characteristics from Nine California Assessment Clinics”.

Theraputic Effets of cannabis

Theraputic Effets of cannabis

Noteworthy findings: 

*Medical cannabis use is higher than average among Blacks and Native Americans, lower among Latinos and Asians.

*73% of patients are male.

*Use is heaviest in the 25-44 year age group.

potential-theraputic-uses-of-medical-marijuana

Potential uses for medical marijuana

*Leading indications:

82.6% for pain

70.7% to improve sleep

55% for “relaxation”

41% for muscle spasms

41% for headaches

38% for anxiety

28% for nausea

26% for depression

51% use as a substitute for prescription medication (showing that medical cannabis may offer significant health cost savings)

Medical cannabis users report significantly lower alcohol and cocaine use than the average population, supporting the substitution theory that more cannabis use may lead to less abuse of other drugs.

Abstract – Marijuana is a currently illegal psychoactive drug that many physicians believe has substantial therapeutic uses. The medical literature contains a growing number of studies on cannabinoids as well as case studies and anecdotal reports suggesting therapeutic potential. Fifteen states have passed medical marijuana laws, but little is known about the growing population of patients who use marijuana medicinally. This article reports on a sample of 1,746 patients from a network of nine medical marijuana evaluation clinics in California. Patients completed a standardized medical history form; evaluating physicians completed standardized evaluation forms. From this data we describe patient characteristics, self-reported presenting symptoms, physician evaluations, other treatments tried, other drug use, and medical marijuana use practices. Pain, insomnia, and anxiety were the most common conditions for which evaluating physicians recommended medical marijuana. Shifts in the medical marijuana patient population over time, the need for further research, and the issue of diversion are discussed.