April 20, 2023

Doubled in less than a decade: the number of medical cannabis patients in the US

Doubled in less than a decade: the number of medical cannabis patients in the US


With 5 years of cannabis journalism behind her after graduating from De Montfort University and writing for cannabis publications such as The Cannavist, Lucy is a dedicated journalist passionate about cannabis education and culture.

A new study published in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine revealed that the number of patients using medical cannabis in the US has doubled between 2013 and 2020.

According to statistics from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 1.2% of US residents had permission from their doctors and were using cannabis for medical purposes between 2013 and 2014. This figure rose to 2.5% between 2019 and 2020.

When compared against 2020 Census data, this percentage represents around 8.3 million people. 

These findings were published by two Professors in Psychiatry from Yale University School of Medicine, Greg Rhee, Phd and Robert Rosenheck, MD, who expanded on these statistics.

“Many of [the] socio-demographic and clinical subgroups showed similar significant increases in cannabis use for medical purposes.”

“In the multivariable-adjusted model, living in a state that legalised medical cannabis remained significantly associated with medical cannabis use.”

However, Dr Rhee and Dr Rosenheck are aware that there may be limitations in this study, terming the question style ‘dichotomous’. 

As respondents were unable to expand upon their answers, this data only provides information on the number of people using medical cannabis under the recommendation of their doctor, it does not include those who may be self medicating. 

It is unclear exactly how many people in the US are using cannabis as a way to self-medicate, but there are other studies that can give us an indication.

Last year, a survey of 290 University students in America found that using cannabis to self-medicate was extremely prevalent.

They revealed:

76% endorsed using cannabis to reduce problems such as anxiety, sleep, depression, pain, loneliness, social discomfort and concentration.”

Another study conducted across America and Canada found that of 27,169 respondents, 27% reported using cannabis for a medicinal purpose, most frequently to manage pain.

Published in The Psychompharmacology Journal in 2022, it states:

“A substantial proportion of the North American population self-reported cannabis use for medical purposes for a variety of medical reasons, including those living in jurisdictions without legal markets.”

Currently medical cannabis is legalised in 37 states and in the District of Columbia and can be prescribed to help with a number of conditions, which vary from state to state

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health has been conducted annually across all 50 states and the District of Columbia since 1971 and is often used by researchers to analyse trends. It is predicted that they will interview approximately 70,000 people this year. 

Releaf understands the importance of medical cannabis in treating various medical conditions. With our tailored monthly packages, specialist consultations for medical cannabis, and a unique medical cannabis card for protection, you can access the treatment you need without worrying about the stigma. 

It is important to seek medical advice before starting any new treatments. The patient advisors at Releaf are available to provide expert advice and support. Alternatively, click here to book a consultation with one of our specialist doctors.

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