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Cannabis Use Patterns Among Patients Living with Chronic Pain during the Pandemic: Insights from the COVID-19 Cannabis Health Study

Isabella Jimenez
University of Miami

Co-Authors: Bria-Necole Diggs1, Amrit Baral1, Marlene Camacho-Rivera2, Jessica Islam3, Sarah E Messiah4, Denise C Vidot1
1University of Miami, 2Moffit Cancer Center, 3SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University, 4University of Texas

Background: Cannabis has been documented to display analgesic properties and literature suggests its efficacy as a natural alternative to pharmaceutical painkillers in alleviating chronic pain arising from health conditions. Additionally, prior studies reported a surge in cannabis use during the early stages of COVID-19 to manage symptoms of anxiety. While the use of cannabis to manage chronic pain and mental health symptoms during the early stage of COVID-19 have been documented by previous research, there remains a gap in knowledge regarding the cannabis use patterns among patients living with chronic pain during later stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods: The data utilized in this analysis are from the COVID-19 Cannabis Health Study, a global cross-sectional study that collected self-reported data on cannabis use, chronic health conditions, and COVID-19 using REDCap survey. This study includes data collected from March 2020 to March 2023. Descriptive statistics were employed using SAS Analytics with a two-tailed alpha set to 0.05.

Results: Of the total respondents (N=2,816) 94.5% consumed cannabis within the past year and 28.4% reported living with chronic pain. Among those with chronic pain, 50.1% were male and 84.7% were Non-Hispanic White. Of those living with chronic pain, 99.0% consumed cannabis within the past year and 60.9% consumed for both recreational/adult and medicinal purposes (compared to 5.7% medicinal only and 30.8% recreational/adult only). Before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, participants reported a higher prevalence of pipe/bowl cannabis consumption compared to any other route (i.e. blunt, joint, edible, etc.); however, after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic the most common route consumed switched to edible use. Since COVID-19 has been declared a pandemic, 51.4% of chronic pain patients had no change in their cannabis dosage, while 39.8% increased their dose.

Conclusion: The study concluded that there was a change from pipe/bowl usage as the most common route prior to COVID-19 to edible usage post-COVID-19 in the study sample. Almost 40% of people with chronic pain increased their overall cannabis dosage during the COVID-19 pandemic. The data presented notable findings to address the gap in literature regarding use of cannabis by chronic pain patients during COVID-19. Given that the COVID-19 pandemic affected public health on a large scale, future research examining how cannabis use among patients with other chronic conditions was affected by COVID-19 is crucial.