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Orthopedic Patients' Interest in Cannabis is High

1 in 5 Use It, Two-Thirds Interested in Using It

The use of medical cannabis has garnered a lot of recent attention, especially as parts of the United States and Canada have legalized its use. While it has been studied in cancer and nerve pain, not much is known about the usage rate and its efficacy in managing chronic musculoskeletal (MSK) pain. According to a new study released as part of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons’ (AAOS) Virtual Education Experience, up to 20% of patients presenting to an orthopaedic surgeon with chronic MSK pain are using cannabis to manage their pain, with many reporting success. Additionally, two-thirds of non-users are interested in using it for the management of MSK pain, prompting a need to further study its effects.

Currently, 33 states, District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands have approved medical marijuana/cannabis programs.[i] The majority of U.S. adults (59%) believe marijuana should be legal for medical and recreational use, and 32% say it should be legal for medical use only, according to a September 2019 Pew Research Center survey.[ii] The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved one prescription drug that contains a substance derived from marijuana.[iii]

The study, “Understanding the Rate and Perceived Efficacy of Cannabis Use for the Management of Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain,” looked at the rate and pattern of cannabis use among patients with chronic MSK pain, self-reported efficacy and potential barriers to cannabis use for non-users.

“Most doctors, especially orthopaedic surgeons, don’t have prescribing power for cannabis, so there is minimal physician oversight when it comes to cannabis use to manage chronic MSK pain,” said Dr. Leroux. “To complicate things, it’s a little bit of a Wild West in the cannabis industry in terms of what you get in a product, namely actual vs. labelled composition, and consistency. Another challenge is that we don’t fully know what products, formulations, dosages, and routes of administration are best to manage chronic MSK pain. Given the high rate of use observed in this study and little physician oversight, there’s an impetus for us as a medical community to try to understand what role, if any, cannabis may serve in the management of chronic MSK pain.”

The study found that patients who used cannabis for chronic MSK pain:

  • Have multiple conditions, including depression, back pain, chronic pelvic pain and chronic neck pain (p < 0.001)
  • Were more likely to report a greater burden of pain, including a greater total number of painful areas (p < 0.001), a history of pain clinic visits...


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