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Pain relief as motivation for cannabis use among young adult users with and without chronic pain

 Though young adults are generally thought to be a healthy population, around 20% of young adults report experiencing chronic pain. As the legal and medical perceptions of marijuana have changed in this country, use of marijuana to manage pain is increasingly common. A new study investigated the prevalence of chronic pain among young adult cannabis users in order to estimate how often cannabis is used among young adults to manage pain.

In this study, over 100 young adult cannabis users completed surveys on their demographics, pain history and characteristics, cannabis use, motives for use, and cannabis related problems. The data collected was analyzed, and the results showed that over 40% of the sample met criteria to have chronic pain. In the participants without chronic pain, the main motivations for marijuana use were social, emotional coping, and being part of a routine. The group reporting chronic pain used marijuana more frequently, but did not report that it was part of their routine as often a the non-pain group did. Pain relief was the top motivation in this group. These findings highlight that chronic pain is more common among young adults than is assumed, and also suggests that the prevention strategies to target those with and without chronic pain should be developed differently.

Take Away: In a sample of over 100 cannabis using young adults, 40% reported having chronic pain and using marijuana to manage pain. The other group without chronic pain reported using to cope with social and emotional situations and reported that marijuana was part of their “routine”. These findings highlight the prevalence of chronic pain among young adults and the different prevention strategies needed to reach those with different motivations for using cannabis.

Fales, J.L., Ladd, B.O., Magnan, R.E. (2019). Pain Relief as a Motivation for Cannabis Use Among Young Adult Users With and Without Chronic Pain. The Journal of Pain. doi.org/10.1016/j.pain.2019.02.001.

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