Cannabis Patient Behavior: Replacing Prescription Drugs, Choosing Legal Options and Growing Use of Cannabis Mobile Apps

Marijuana medical choice dilemma health care concept as a person standing in front of two paths with one offering traditional medicine and the other option with cannabis.

As cannabis becomes more available in the United States, the ability to study patient behavior is growing. From replacing prescription drugs with cannabis and cannabis purchasing behavior to the growing use of cannabis mobile apps, all three studies highlighted here a common connection: cannabis patient and consumer behavior.

Based on the results from these studies, it is encouraging to see how patient behavior is likely to unfold should federal policy reform make cannabis legal across the United States. Nonetheless, this information is likely to be helpful as more states make medicinal and adult-use cannabis legal.

Patients Replace Prescription Drugs With Cannabis

Medical MarijuanaWhen legal medical cannabis is available, will patients reduce their consumption of conventional pharmaceuticals? Good question. And, one that was answered by investigators affiliated with the Medical Marijuana Research Institute in Mesa, Arizona, and published online in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.

The investigators surveyed state-qualified patients recruited from four Arizona medical cannabis dispensaries, most of whom were male, in their mid-40s, and daily consumers of cannabis. Over 70 percent of respondents reported using other medications “a little less frequently” or “much less frequently” for 24 of the 42 conditions specified. For patients consuming cannabis for nausea, headache, muscle spasms, fibromyalgia, bowel distress, and chronic pain, 90 percent reported using pharmaceuticals less frequently once they began consuming medical cannabis.

NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano, who wrote an article about this study for The Daily Chronic, also mentioned two earlier published studies that revealed somewhat similar insight. A study published in July by the National Bureau of Economic Research that reported a decrease in both opiod addictions and opioid overdose deaths in states where medical marijuana dispensaries are legal as compared to states in which they are not. And, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported a “24.8 percent lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws.”

Black Market Marijuana Taking Big Hit in States With Operating Dispensaries, Adult-Use Stores

Marijuana Black Market Activity ChartEach week Marijuana Business Daily identifies a Chart of the Week. Recently, the chart highlighted marijuana black market activity. Nearly 70 percent of marijuana users in states where dispensaries and/or adult use stores are open for business obtain cannabis exclusively through legal means.

In contrast, just over 80 percent of users in states without operating dispensaries/adult-use stores exclusively buy from the black market. In total, nearly 90 percent of medical and adult use consumers typically obtain cannabis through illegal means in states without access to dispensaries/adult-use stores.

Cannabis Mobile Apps Reflect and Influence Growing Acceptance of Cannabis

Cannabis apps for smart phonesMobile technology today is widely used to access and obtain information and based on a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR), mobile apps related to cannabis are most often informational or recreational (games) that reflect the growing acceptance of cannabis for medical and adult-use purposes.

The team—a group of researchers from the University of California in San Francisco—investigated the content of  cannabis-related mobile apps for Apple and Android devices using the search terms “cannabis” and “marijuana.” The total apps available for each search term were 124 for cannabis and 218 for marijuana in the Apple App Store and 250 each for cannabis and marijuana on Google Play.  The three most common content areas were 1) cannabis strain classification, 2) facts about cannabis, and 3) games. Only one app provided information related to cannabis abuse, addiction or treatment.

In the Apple App Store, the most popular apps provided strain classifications, dispensary information, and general facts about cannabis. On Google Play, the most popular app types offered games, phone utilities, and cannabis food recipes.

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