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Efficacy and Safety of Older Adults with Chronic Pain using Medical Marijuana

Lenny Chiang-Hanisko
Florida Atlantic University

Co-authors: David Newman1, Deborah D’Avolio1
1Florida Atlantic University

Objective: The purpose of this study is to identify if Medical Marijuana (MMJ) is effective and safe for older adults with chronic pain, to develop an understanding of what educational materials are required to facilitate access to appropriate products at medical marijuana treatment centers (MMTC), and to provide evidence to guide policy for clinical practice.

Method: This study utilized an explanatory sequential mixed methods design. The quantitative phase was descriptive correlational and investigated the preparation to use MMJ, patterns of use and effects on pain relief including potential side effects. The qualitative phase used content analysis to identify emergent themes from the interview data.

Results: Data was collected using REDCap online survey tools. 131 participants met inclusion criteria with 124 completing the questions. Thirty participants were purposely invited to the interviews with seven interviews completed and analyzed. The analysis revealed the occurrence of several common side-effects of MMJ use. The largest side effect was an increased appetite (22.3%), followed by change in lethargy (14.0%). There were also elevated levels reported in mood changes (12.4%), lack of concentration (11.6%) and dizziness (9.1%). 3 (2.5%) participants reported that they did not receive any MMJ education prior to f illing their prescription, with 52.5% reporting the education was less than 20 minutes. MMJ was considered effective in reduction of overall chronic pain on a visual analog scale ranging from 0 to 100 with a decrease in average pain from 70.9 prior to MMJ use to 33.8 after use [t(79)=16.29, p<.001, d=1.82]. Six themes were identified from the qualitative interviews included: 1) reasons for using marijuana, 2) side effects of MMJ, 3) benefits, 4) lack of education about the safe use of MMJ, 5) dispensary challenges, and 6) the cost burden of obtaining the MMJ license and renewal. All seven participants confirmed their difficulty with seeking out information about MMJ on their own.

Conclusion: These themes, in combination with the quantitative findings, suggest that state legislative bodies understand the importance of implementing mandatory MMJ education among dispensary site personnel to help address any gaps of MMJ education.

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