Currently, more than half of the states in the U.S. have passed laws allowing for the use of medicinal marijuana, while eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized the use of recreational marijuana. As the availability of legal marijuana continues to grow, certain populations will have greater access to cannabis than ever before.
A recent study done at a cancer center located in a state with legalized recreational and medicinal marijuana found that roughly one-quarter of patients surveyed had used marijuana in the past year. Those surveyed said that they were using it for both physical and psychological symptoms. The study also found that legalization increased the probability of marijuana use among patients.
It is believed that cannabis can alleviate symptoms related to cancer treatment. Despite this, patterns of marijuana use among cancer patients have not been thoroughly investigated. To make up for this gap in data, Dr. Steven Pergam of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and his team surveyed over 900 patients at the Seattle Cancer Center Alliance.
They found that the majority of patients were interested in learning more about the use of marijuana during treatment. Well over half of the participants had used marijuana in the past, with 24 percent using it in the last year – and 21 percent using cannabis in the last month.
Through random urine sampling, the researchers discovered that 14 percent had evidence of recent cannabis use, although 18 percent had reported using it in the past week.
Despite the fact that 74 percent of the patients surveyed wanted more information from their cancer care providers, most of the participants reported that they were more likely to get information on medical marijuana from sources outside of the healthcare system.
“Cancer patients desire but are not receiving information from their cancer doctors about marijuana use during their treatment, so many of them are seeking information from alternate non-scientific sources,” says Dr. Pergam. “We hope that this study helps to open up the door for more studies aimed at evaluating the risks and benefits of marijuana in this population. This is important, because if we do not educate our patients about marijuana, they will continue to get their information elsewhere.”
By Connor Ertz, Earth.com Staff Writer