Rationale: There has been increasing attention on cannabis use for medical purposes, but there is currently a lack of data on its epidemiology.
Objectives: To examine the epidemiology of self-reported cannabis use for medical purposes by (1) estimating its prevalence, (2) comparing gender and age differences, and (3) investigating what reasons they were used to manage.
Methods: Participants included 27,169 respondents (aged 16-65) who completed Wave 1 of The International Cannabis Policy Study (ICPS) conducted across Canada and the USA in 2018 via online surveys. Cannabis policy conditions were "US legal-recreational" (legal for both recreational and medical uses), "US legal-medical only", "US illegal", and "Canada-medical only".
Results: The overall prevalence of self-reported ever cannabis use for medical purposes was 27%, with similar rates by sex and the highest prevalence in young adults. Prevalence was higher in US legal-recreational states (34%) than US illegal states (23%), US legal-medical only states (25%), and Canada (25%). The most common physical health reasons include use to manage pain (53%), sleep (46%), headaches/migraines (35%), appetite (22%), and nausea/vomiting (21%). For mental health reasons, the most common were for anxiety (52%), depression (40%), and PTSD/trauma (17%). There were 11% who reported using cannabis for managing other drug or alcohol use and 4% for psychosis.
Conclusions: A substantial proportion of the North American population self-reported cannabis use for medical purposes for a variety of medical reasons, including those living in jurisdictions without legal markets. Further research is needed to understand the safety and efficacy of these forms of medical cannabis use.
Keywords: Cannabis; Epidemiology; Legalisation; Marijuana; Prevalence; Therapeutic use.
© 2022. The Author(s).