Background: Very little is known about medical marijuana users. The present study provides descriptive information on adults seeking medical marijuana and compares individuals seeking medical marijuana for the first time with those renewing their medical marijuana card on measures of substance use, pain and functioning.
Methods: Research staff approached patients (n=348) in the waiting area of a medical marijuana certification clinic. Chi-square and Wilcoxon signed rank tests were used to compare participants who reported that they were seeking medical marijuana for the first time (n=195) and those who were seeking to renew their access to medical marijuana (n=153).
Results: Returning medical marijuana patients reported a higher prevalence of lifetime cocaine, amphetamine, inhalant and hallucinogen use than first time patients. Rates of recent alcohol misuse and drug use were relatively similar between first time patients and returning patients with the exception of nonmedical use of prescription sedatives and marijuana use. Nonmedical prescription sedative use was more common among first time visitors compared to those seeking renewal (p<0.05). The frequency of recent marijuana use was higher in returning patients than first time patients (p<0.0001). Compared to first time patients, returning patients reported somewhat lower current pain level and slightly higher mental health and physical functioning.
Conclusions: Study results indicate that differences exist between first time and returning medical marijuana patients. Longitudinal data are needed to characterize trajectories of substance use and functioning in these two groups.
Keywords: Chronic pain; Drug dependence; Health services; Marijuana.
Published by Elsevier Ireland Ltd.