Medical cannabis patients use fewer healthcare resources

A new study has revealed that medical cannabis patients use fewer healthcare resources and report improved quality of life.

To date, there has been minimal research conducted on whether medical cannabis patients in the US have perceived or actual health benefits from the medicine. Researchers from Johns Hopkins Medicine and the Realm of Caring Foundation have surveyed patients to investigate, finding that they reported less pain, better sleep, and reduced anxiety, contributing to an overall better quality of life.

The patients also reported taking fewer prescription medications and were less likely to have visited an emergency room or have been admitted to a hospital than people who didn’t use cannabis for medical purposes – showing that cannabis patients put less strain on healthcare resources.

The study has been published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.

Reducing the burden on healthcare with medical cannabis

The researchers report that because this early work shows medical benefits for cannabis, more funding and clinical trials are urgently needed to determine what conditions the drug may treat.

Ryan Vandrey, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said: “It wasn’t surprising to me that people claim to feel better when using medical cannabis, but it was unexpected to see that these people utilised less health care resources.

“When we evaluated people before and after using medical cannabis, and then saw the exact same changes seen in the cross-sectional comparison between cannabis users and controls, that’s when we knew we had a compelling validation showing actual medical benefit.”

Results from the study showed that medical cannabis patients reported about an 8% better quality of life, 9% reduction in pain scores, and a 12% reduction in anxiety scores.

Medical cannabis patients also reported using 14% fewer prescription medications, that they were 39% less likely to have visited an emergency room, and 46% less likely to have been admitted to a hospital in the month before being surveyed. Vandrey added: “This study was a 30,000-foot view of the landscape and now we need to drill down to see what conditions are actually benefitted from medical cannabis use.”

Vandrey and colleagues will now study the effects of medical cannabis on epilepsyanxiety disorders, and autism.

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