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Chronic pain patients' perspectives of medical cannabis

Piper, Brian J.a,*; Beals, Monica L.b; Abess, Alexander T.c; Nichols, Stephanie D.d; Martin, Maurice W.e; Cobb, Catherine M.f; DeKeuster, Rebecca M.g

doi: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000000899
Research Paper

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.

Supplemental Digital Content is Available in the Text.Medical cannabis patients, including two-thirds with chronic pain, report health benefits including improved pain management and sleep. Pharmacoeconomic factors were the greatest limitation of medical cannabis.

aDepartment of Basic Sciences, The Commonwealth Medical College, Scranton, PA, USA

bDepartment of Psychological Sciences, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, USA

cDepartment of Anesthesiology and Pain Management, Maine Health, Maine Medical Center, Portland, ME, USA

dDepartment of Pharmacy Practice, Husson University School of Pharmacy, Bangor, ME, USA

eDepartment of Community Health Education, University of Maine, Farmington, ME, USA

fCenter for Wellness Leadership, Portland, ME, USA. R. M. DeKeuster is now with Calyx Concepts LLC, Sidney, ME, USA

gWellness Connection of Maine, Gardiner, ME, USA.

Corresponding author. Address: Department of Basic Sciences, The Commonwealth Medical College, Scranton, PA 18509, USA. Tel.: (413) 347-7199; fax: (570) 504-9660. E-mail address: bpiper@tcmc.edu; psy391@gmail.com. (B. J. Piper).

Sponsorships or competing interests that may be relevant to content are disclosed at the end of this article.

Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citations appear in the printed text and are provided in the HTML and PDF versions of this article on the journal's Web site (www.painjournalonline.com).

Received November 14, 2016

Received in revised form February 28, 2017

Accepted March 02, 2017

© 2017 International Association for the Study of Pain
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