Cannabis use patterns in patients seeking treatment in a UK sample of medical cannabis patients

Lucy Troup, Simon Erridge, Mikael H . Sodergren

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Introduction: Cannabis based medicinal products (CBMPs) have been available in the UK under specialist medical providers since 2018. It has been shown that up to 70% of patients prescribed CBMPs have previously consumed cannabis. However, there is limited data to understand the motives of prior cannabis consumption and how this may be altered after being prescribed CBMPs. This in turn contributes to stigma attached to the use of CBMPs as a risk intensive treatment option (Troup et al., Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health. 19 (2022) 7499). The aim of this study was to further analyse the relationship between patients receiving CBMPs and their past and present use of cannabis.

Methods: Patients prescribed CBMPs within the past 3 months by Sapphire Medical Clinics were invited via email to participate in this cross-sectional survey study. The questionnaire was designed by a multidisciplinary group of academics to capture demographic information and medical conditions, as well as assess prior and present illicit cannabis consumption. The survey was distributed via Qualtrics (Seattle, Washington, United States) and analysed using descriptive statistics.

Results: From 6849 patients invited to participate, 1100 (16.1%) respondents completed the questionnaire. 1086 (98.7%) reported having a medical diagnosis from a medical professional, and 1078 (99.3%) reported currently administering CBMPs as prescribed by the clinic. Responses indicated that a number of patients also consumed illicitly purchased cannabis to self-treat their condition (n=235; 21.6%)). The majority of participants (n=770; 70.0%) reported using cannabis for recreational purposes prior to being prescribed CBMPs. However, 609 (79.1%) of these patients reported no longer using cannabis for recreational purposes. Only one (0.1%) participant started consuming cannabis recreationally after being prescribed CBMPs. Some patients (n=291; 26.5%) also reported having medical conditions for which they hadn’t sought a diagnosis from a healthcare professional. Several individuals reported consuming cannabis for undiagnosed conditions (n=241; 82.8%). Most of these received a prescription for CBMPs (n=234; 80.4%), whilst 24.4% (n=71) consumed illicit cannabis for this reason.

Discussion: Use patterns of patients seeking treatment with CBMPs compared to unregulated cannabis are complex. It is difficult to determine if responses to questions regarding recreational use can be separated from the potential that it is in fact “self-medication”. Self-report of cannabis as recreational use appears to reduce once access to CBMPs occurs. Moreover, it is rare for individuals to start consuming cannabis recreationally after initiation of treatment with CBMPs. From the patients surveyed the majority are using legitimate CBMPs under the supervision of a medical professional. In terms of reducing risk attached to using unregulated cannabis to treat medical conditions, medically supervised use of CBMPs is instrumental in reducing the potential for harm.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jun 2023
EventInternational Cannabinoid Research Society - Canada, Toronto, Canada
Duration: 24 Jun 202329 Jun 2023


ConferenceInternational Cannabinoid Research Society
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