Cannabis use in active athletes: Behaviors related to subjective effects

PLoS One. 2019 Jun 28;14(6):e0218998. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0218998. eCollection 2019.


Cannabis use has not been well characterized in athletes. Studies primarily examine problematic use or its categorization by anti-doping bodies as a banned substance. Patterns of use, reasons for use, and responses to cannabis consumption have not been studied in a community-based sample of adult athletes. The Athlete PEACE Survey examined cannabis use patterns and subjective effects to cannabis in a community-based cohort of adult athletes. We used mainly social media and email blasts to recruit and SurveyGizmo to collect data. 1,161 (91.1%) of the 1,274 athletes taking the survey completed it. Current cannabis use was evaluated by asking "In the past two weeks, have you used marijuana (including THC and/or CBD)?" and cannabis type used was assessed by asking "What do you primarily use THC, CBD, or both?". Cannabis benefits and adverse effects (i.e. subjective effects) and patterns of use were reported. 302 athletes (26%) currently use cannabis of whom 301 had complete data for cluster analysis. Cluster analysis was used to determine cannabis user phenotypes and exploratory factor analysis (EFA) was used to create subjective effects factors. Associations between cannabis user phenotype clusters and the subjective effects factors were explored using multivariate analysis. Cluster analysis identified three statistically distinct cannabis user phenotypes: (1) older athletes who primarily use medical CBD, (2) mixed age athletes who use cannabis mainly recreationally with both THC and CBD use, and (3) mixed age athletes who used cannabis the longest with primary THC and CBD use. EFA showed three subjective effects factors: (1) Well-being, (2) Calm, and (3) Adverse. Mean positive subjective were higher than mean adverse subjective effects (p<0.001). The cluster using THC and CBD showed the highest mean scores for all three subjective effects factors (p<0.001). Athletes who use a combination of THC and CBD exhibited the most benefit to well-being and calm with minimal adverse effects. Our methodology can be used to develop real-world evidence to inform future use of medical cannabis products.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Athletes*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marijuana Use / epidemiology*
  • Medical Marijuana*
  • Prevalence


  • Medical Marijuana

Grant support

The authors received so specific funding for this work.