In a recent study published in JAMA Network Open, researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), have provided a comprehensive analysis of cannabis use among primary care patients within a large health system. This study, led by Dr. Lillian Gelberg and her team, offers crucial insights into the prevalence, reasons, and patterns of cannabis use, shedding light on the growing interaction between cannabis consumption and primary healthcare.

Cannabis Use on the Rise

With the changing legal landscape surrounding cannabis, its use has become increasingly common. The study analyzed data from 175,734 patients who visited primary care clinics within the UCLA health system from January 2021 to May 2023. The results revealed that 17% of these patients reported using cannabis in the past three months. Among these users, 34.7% were identified as being at moderate to high risk for cannabis use disorder (CUD), a condition characterized by the problematic use of cannabis leading to significant impairment or distress.

Demographics and Patterns of Use

The study found notable differences in cannabis use across various demographic groups:

  • Age: Younger patients (18-29 years) reported the highest prevalence of use at 31%, while those aged 60 and older reported the lowest at 8.5%.
  • Sex: Male patients were more likely to use cannabis (20%) compared to female patients (14.7%).
  • Socioeconomic Status: Interestingly, patients from the most disadvantaged neighborhoods had a lower prevalence of cannabis use (13.8%) compared to those from more affluent areas (17.4%). However, the risk for CUD was higher among patients from the most disadvantaged neighborhoods.
See also  Harm Reduction Books for Free

Modes and Reasons for Use

The study also explored the modes of cannabis use and the reasons behind it. The most common modes of use included edibles (61.6%), smoking (51.7%), and vaporizing (29%).

Patients reported using cannabis for various reasons, with the majority indicating they used it to manage health-related symptoms rather than strictly for recreational purposes:

  • Sleep: 56% used cannabis to aid sleep.
  • Stress: 50.2% used it to manage stress.
  • Pain: 36.5% used it for pain relief, including nonspecific pain, muscle spasms, headaches, and arthritis.
  • Mental Health: Many patients reported using cannabis for mental health symptoms, such as anxiety (36.3%) and depression (17.3%).

Implications for Primary Care

Given the high prevalence of cannabis use and the significant proportion of users at risk for CUD, the study underscores the need for routine cannabis screening in primary care settings. Screening can help clinicians identify patients who might benefit from early interventions to prevent the development of CUD and provide better guidance on the safe use of cannabis, especially for medical purposes.

Looking Forward

This study provides a valuable foundation for future research and healthcare policy. By understanding the patterns and reasons for cannabis use among primary care patients, healthcare providers can better address the needs of their patients and potentially mitigate the risks associated with cannabis use. The integration of routine cannabis screening in primary care could be a crucial step in enhancing patient care and ensuring the safe and effective use of cannabis.

For further details and in-depth analysis, you can access the full study in JAMA Network Open here.

See also  Cross-Tolerance of Drugs

Find More

  1. Cannabis in Germany: From Outlaw to Legal High
  2. Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome
  3. Marijuana and Lung Health