Patient-reported use of medical cannabis for pain, anxiety, and depression symptoms: Systematic review and meta-analysis

Soc Sci Med. 2019 Jul:233:181-192. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2019.06.005. Epub 2019 Jun 8.


Rationale: Certifications for medical cannabis are generally restricted to a small number of specific medical conditions, yet patients frequently report symptoms of pain, anxiety, and depression as reasons for use. This is a critical concern for researchers, healthcare providers, and policymakers, yet research in this area is currently obstructed by the lack of a focused review or empirical synthesis on patient-reported reasons for medical cannabis use.

Objectives: AND METHOD: The first aim of this project was to conduct the first systematic review and meta-analysis of empirical studies of patient-reported symptoms of pain, anxiety, and depression as reasons for medical cannabis use. The second aim was to conduct an empirical assessment of the methodological quality of extant research, test for publication bias, and test sex composition and quality scores of individual studies as possible sources of observed heterogeneity.

Results: Meta-analytic results indicated that pain (64%), anxiety (50%), and depression/mood (34%) were common reasons for medical cannabis use. No evidence for publication bias was detected, despite heterogeneity in prevalence rates. A comprehensive assessment of study quality identified a number of specific methodological limitations of the existing research, including challenges in patient recruitment, use of restrictive sampling frames, and a lack of randomized recruitment methods and validated assessment measures.

Conclusion: Findings are discussed with regard to possible explanations for current results, clinical considerations, and areas of future research that are needed to move the field forward.

Keywords: Anxiety; Chronic pain; Depression; Marijuana; Medical cannabis; Pain; Systematic review; meta-Analysis.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / drug therapy*
  • Bias
  • Chronic Pain / drug therapy*
  • Depression / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Medical Marijuana / administration & dosage*
  • Patient Reported Outcome Measures*


  • Medical Marijuana