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Doctor suggested cannabis for pain relief, say one in six medicinal users in the UK-MUHC study

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Published: 17 Mar 2005

Sixteen per cent of people who use cannabis for medical reasons say that their doctor suggested it, according to research published in the March issue of IJCP, the International Journal of Clinical Practice.

Sixteen per cent of people who use cannabis for medical reasons say that their doctor suggested it, according to research published in the March issue of IJCP, the International Journal of Clinical Practice.

Nine hundred forty-seven people in the UK reported using cannabis for medical purposes, with more than a third (35 per cent) saying that they used it six or seven days a week. The majority (68 per cent) said that it made their symptoms much better.

"The results of our UK survey, including the extent of use and reported effects, lend support to the further development of safe and effective medicines based on cannabis," says lead author Dr Mark Ware, principal investigator and pain physician at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) Pain Centre.

People with chronic pain were most likely to use cannabis for medicinal purposes (25 per cent), followed by patients with multiple sclerosis (22 per cent), depression (22 per cent), arthritis (21 per cent) and neuropathy (19 per cent).

Younger people, males and those who had used cannabis recreationally were also more likely to use it for medicinal reasons.

Key findings included:

  • 73 per cent of respondents used cannabis at least once a week, with 35 per cent using it six or seven times a week.
  • 62 per cent said a friend, family members or acquaintance had suggested it and 55 per cent said they had read a book or article about cannabis. Nineteen per cent were prior users or had found out its benefits by accident and 16 per cent said their doctor had suggested it.
  • The majority of users (82 per cent) smoked the drug. Other methods included eating it (43 per cent) and making cannabis tea (28 per cent).
  • 916 reported average usage levels, with the largest percentage (27 per cent) using one to two grams per day. Only 2 per cent used 10 or more grams a day and 7 per cent used five to nine grams a day.
  • 45 per cent of 916 respondents said cannabis worked better than prescribed medication. Thirty per cent of the 872 who answered the question on side effects said that prescribed drugs were worse than cannabis and 34 per cent said the side effects were much worse.
  • 77 per cent of 876 respondents said their symptoms returned or got worse when they stopped using cannabis.

"To our knowledge, this is the most extensive survey of medicinal cannabis use among chronically ill patients conducted to date," says Dr Ware. "We believe that it presents a broad picture of the current state of cannabis use for medicinal purposes in the UK."

About the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI MUHC)
The Research Institute of the MUHC is a world-renowned biomedical and health care hospital research centre. Located in Montreal, Quebec, the institute is the research arm of the MUHC, a university health centre affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University. The institute supports over 500 researchers, nearly 1,000 graduate and postdoctoral students, and operates more than 300 laboratories devoted to a broad spectrum of fundamental and clinical research. The Research Institute operates at the forefront of knowledge, innovation and technology and is inextricably linked to the clinical programs of the MUHC, ensuring that patients benefit directly from the latest research-based knowledge. For further details visit the Research Institute website.

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Contact: Ian Popple
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