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Building Intentions With the Theory of Planned Behavior: A Qualitative Assessment of the Salient Beliefs About Cannabis for Therapeutic Purpose Among Individuals with Epilepsy

Shannon Antoine-Hardy
Florida A&M University

Co-Authors: Joseph Telfair, Kelly Sullivan, Mase William
Georgia Southern University

It is estimated that 3.4 million people in the United States have epilepsy. Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disorder which can lead to poor quality of life, developmental delays, injury, or premature death. There are roughly 28 FDA approved antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) to treat seizures and despite the availability of these AEDs, 30 to 40% of the patients remain resistant to drug treatment. Evidence from anecdotal reports and small clinical trials have reported numerous therapeutic benefits of medical cannabis (MC). Because more individuals with epilepsy are seeking alternative medical treatment, it is essential to understand the social and contextual factors that influence their decision-making. Individuals’ beliefs about AEDs may influence their intention towards the acquisition or dissent of MC. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to investigate predictors that affect individuals’ intention to adopt cannabis for therapeutic purpose (CTP), explore perceived barriers to CTP, as well as assess individuals’ beliefs about their personal need for anti-epileptic drugs. 

Methods: This study employed a concurrent nested-triangulation study design. Semi-structured interviews and Beliefs about Medicine- Epilepsy Specific (BMQ-E) questionnaire was used to gather data on salient beliefs about CTP and AED medication. The participants were recruited through the Epilepsy Foundation of Georgia and included both men and women, aged 18 years and older with a clinical diagnosis of epilepsy. Thematic analysis was utilized to identify themes and MAXQDA was used to code transcriptions. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics for the BMQ-E questionnaire. 

Results: The most frequently mentioned positive outcomes of using CTP included seizure reduction, fewer side effects, and improved mental/emotional state. Negative stigma, dependency, and fear of job loss were the most frequently mentioned negative outcomes. 

Discussion: The results of this study were limited to the participants who were enrolled; therefore, the beliefs about CTP and AEDs were less likely to be representative to the general population of adults with epilepsy. This elicitation study was intended to provide groundwork for future studies that examine the political, contextual, and public health implications for CTP use among those with severe chronic conditions.