Delineating between “medical” and “recreational” cannabis use can be challenging and murky. Many of those opposing full legalization say they’re in favor of medical cannabis, but are still staunchly against adult-use recreational programs. There aren’t many cannabis prohibitionists when it comes to chemotherapy, but heaven forbid weed be used for sadness, stress, or anxiety—health is one thing, but happiness is immoral, or something. (These are often the same people who will wrap up the day with a lumberjack-sized serving of wine, so…)
Whenever a state enacts an adult-use recreational cannabis program, the prohibitionist-minded usually conclude the majority of purchases are being made by those wanting to simply just “get high” (not that there’s anything wrong with that). But the authors of a new study have determined that a majority of cannabis consumers made their purchases to address pain and sleep issues, and in doing so, reduced their need for prescribed pharmaceuticals.
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Merry Jane writes about the study, which was led by a psychiatrist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York and was first published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs . Researchers came to their conclusion after surveying shoppers at two Colorado dispensaries in 2016. They eliminated medical cannabis cardholders from the pool of respondents, which left them with a sample size of 1,000 consumers.
Of those, a whopping 65 percent reported they were buying cannabis to address pain issues, and 74 percent were using it to help with sleep. Both groups found that cannabis worked for their issues relief, with 83 percent of those using it for sleep finding it effective enough that they were able to discontinue their use of prescription sleep medications. For those with pain issues, the success rate was just as good—82 percent stopped their use of over-the-counter pain meds, and 88 percent were able to stop their use of opioid-based pain meds. The risk of abuse, addiction, and death from opioids is well known, but even over-the-counter medicine can have health risks, making cannabis an attractive choice for many.
Pain management and lack of sleep are very common health issues. From Merry Jane:
“‘Approximately 20 percent of American adults suffer from chronic pain, and one in three adults do not get enough sleep,’ Dr. Gwen Wurm, Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and co-author of the study, said in a statement…. ‘The challenge is that health providers are far behind in knowing which cannabis products work and which do not,’ Dr. Wurm said. ‘Until there is more research into which cannabis products work for which symptoms, patients will do their own ‘trial and error’ experiments, getting advice from friends, social media and dispensary employees.'”