Chicago, IL: Women enrolled in a state-licensed medical cannabis access program are more likely than men to report either reducing or discontinuing their use of prescription medications, according to data published in the Journal of Women’s Health.

Investigators with DePaul University in Chicago and John Hopkins University in Baltimore surveyed 361 patients registered with Illinois’ state-sponsored medical marijuana access program.

Researchers reported that women acknowledged using cannabis to address a greater variety of medical conditions than did men, and that they were also more likely to report having either reduced or ceased their use of prescription medicines following enrollment in the program. Female respondents were also less likely than male respondents to report having their decision to use medical cannabis supported by either their primary care provider or by a physician specialist.

They concluded: “The results from our cross-sectional study describe a number of gender-associated patterns within the use and outcomes of MC [medical cannabis] among patients with chronic conditions. Women appear to be more likely than men to use MC for a range of symptoms (specifically, pain, anxiety, inflammation, and nausea), to have increased use of cannabis since qualifying for MC, and to subsequently have reduced or completely discontinued their prescription medications. In addition, the women in our sample reported marginally lower levels of support from their primary care provider, and significantly less support from specialist physicians than the men in our sample, and significantly more of them received certification for their state MC card from MC practices.”

The findings are consistent with those of numerous other studies finding that patients enrolled in medical cannabis access programs typically reduce or eliminate their use of prescription medicines, particularly opioids.

Full text of the study, “Gender differences in medical cannabis use: Symptoms treated, physician support for use, and prescription medicines discontinuation,” appears in the Journal of Women’s Health. Additional information on cannabis as a potential substitute for opioids in patients with chronic pain is available in the NORML fact sheet.

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