Individuals with medical conditions were more likely to report marijuana use than those without these conditions, according to a survey study published in JAMA Network Open.

To investigate the prevalence and patterns of marijuana use among US adults, researchers used data from the 2016 and 2017 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (N=169,036), which collects data from residents regarding health-related risk behaviors, medical conditions, and use of preventive services; for this study, they focused on current (defined as use within the past month) and daily (defined as more than 20 days of use in the last 30 days) marijuana use. 

Results showed that compared with adults with no medical conditions, those with medical conditions, particularly asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), arthritis, cancer, and depression, were more likely to report current marijuana use. However, the prevalence of use, both current and daily, was observed to decrease with increasing age; 11.2% of adults aged 18 to 24 years with medical conditions reported daily use of marijuna compared with 0.9% of adults 65 years or older. 

Smoking was found to be the primary method of marijuana administration among adults with and without medical conditions. “It is of concern that the great majority (77.5%) of current marijuana users with medical conditions consume marijuana by smoking it,” the authors noted. Among those with medical conditions, 45.5% of respondents reported medical reasons as the sole purpose for marijuana use.

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“Clinicians should screen for marijuana use among patients and initiate open discussions with patients about the benefits and risks associated with marijuana for their comorbid conditions and long-term health,” the authors concluded.

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