An online patient network survey has found that its patients who use medical marijuana believe it is the best available treatment for them. The survey of 219 member of PatientsLikeMe was conducted online and explored the benefits and risks of medical marijuana from the patient’s point of view.
Survey respondents use medical marijuana for more than one reason, including treating pain (75%), muscle stiffness or spasms (69%), insomnia (67%) and anxiety (55%). The majority (63%) considered marijuana as a treatment option because they think it is more natural.
PatientsLikeMe’s Vice President for Advocacy, Policy, and Patient Safety, Sally Okun, RN said that while the number of respondents and conditions represented is limited, the survey and its results come at an important time. “As more people consider using medical marijuana, and more states legalize it, patients need to know what others are experiencing. This survey starts to gather real world data about marijuana as medicine—information that may be useful for patients and their physicians as they explore options and make treatment decisions.”
Currently, 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use.
Half of the survey respondents started using medical marijuana in the last five years, while 25% started to do so in the last two years. Smoking (71%), edibles (55%), and vaporizing (49%) were the most commonly used methods for taking the treatment. The top three conditions represented were multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia and depression. Key findings are as follows:
76% report that they use medical marijuana because other treatments weren’t working and/or caused too many side effects. About 21% use it to avoid the side effects of other treatments.
When asked about the severity of side effects from using marijuana, 86% of PatientsLikeMe members who report using marijuana indicate the side effects are either “none” or “mild.” The same group says those side effects include dry mouth, increased appetite, and sleepiness.
Most patients report a low level of concern (“Not at all” or “A little”) with long-term health risks, such as developing lung cancer (89%), long-term lung damage (86%), or becoming addicted/dependent (96%).
One in four patients (26%) report being “Somewhat” or “Very” concerned with legal problems associated with using medical marijuana.
David Casarett, M.D., a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine and the author of the newly-released book STONED: A Doctor’s Case for Medical Marijuana, worked with PatientsLikeMe on the survey. “This is an important first step in crowdsourced science about medical marijuana. Until we have a lot more large, high-quality clinical trials, patients will need to rely on each other to learn about whether and how medical marijuana might help them.”