Pain or insomnia main reasons for cannabis use in those without medical certificate

Research has shown that people using cannabis without a medical certificate report decreasing or stopping their use of prescription or over-the-counter analgesics and sleep aids.

woman smoking cannabis

Customers who buy cannabis from “adult use” dispensaries, where no medical certificate is required, commonly report that they use it for pain relief or to help them sleep, according to the findings of a study published in the Journal of Psychoactive drugs (2 July 2019)[1]

Staff at two retail cannabis stores in Colorado, where the sale of cannabis for both medical and recreational use is legal through authorised dispensaries, invited customers to participate in an online survey between August 2016 and October 2016. Customers reporting medical certification for cannabis use were excluded.

Of 1,000 respondents, 65% reported taking cannabis to relieve pain and 74% reported taking cannabis to promote sleep. Among those taking cannabis for pain, 80% said it was very or extremely helpful and, among those taking cannabis for sleep, 84% found it very or extremely helpful.

A large proportion of respondents who reported using cannabis for these reasons also reported decreasing or stopping their use of prescription or over-the-counter analgesics (including opioids) and sleep aids.

“Our research suggests that many individuals bypass the medical cannabis route (which requires registering with the state) and are instead opting for the privacy of a legal adult use dispensary. This may have some impact on opioid prescribing,” said study researcher Gwen Wurm, a paediatrician at the University of Miami, Florida.


[1] Bachhuber M, Arnsten J & Wurm G. Use of cannabis to relieve pain and promote sleep by customers at an adult use dispensary. J Psychoactive Drugs 2019. doi: 10.1080/02791072.2019.1626953

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, August 2019, Vol 303, No 7928;303(7928):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2019.20206894

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