Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Medical Marijuana Often Used as a Prescription Drug Substitute

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Medical Marijuana Often Used as a Prescription Drug Substitute

Article excerpt

FROM THE AMERICAN PSYCHIATRIC ASSOCIATION'S INSTITUTE ON PSYCHIATRIC SERVICES

SAN FRANCISCO - People who qualify for medical marijuana prescriptions frequently report substituting the drug for their other prescription medications.

In an anonymous survey 66% of 350 clients at the Berkeley (Calif.) Patients Group, a medical marijuana dispensary, indicated that they use marijuana as a prescription drug substitute. Their reasons: Cannabis offered better symptom control with fewer side effects than did prescription drugs.

Those respondents who had pain symptoms said that marijuana has less addiction potential than do opioids. Others said marijuana helped them to reduce the dose of other medications.

"Instead of having a pain medication, an antianxiety medication, and a sleep medication, they are able to just use cannabis, and that controls all of those symptoms," said Amanda Reiman, Ph.D., director of research and social services at the Berkeley center.

Almost 50% of those surveyed said they use cannabis two or three times per day.

More than 75% of respondents said they used cannabis for psychiatric disorders, including bipolar disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and persistent insomnia.

Unlike some psychiatric drugs, they said, marijuana didn't leave them feeling like "zombies," Dr. Reiman reported at the meeting.

Almost 70% of those surveyed were men and about 66% were white, in line with the center's overall demographics. Respondents' mean age was about 40 years, and ranged from 18 to 81 years. About two-thirds were employed; 81% had at least some college education; and 28% earned more than $60,000 per year. More than half of the survey respondents were single.

About 75% had health insurance mat covered prescriptions. Even so, "they are still opting to utilize medical cannabis, which is not covered by insurance," Dr. Reiman said.

About 70% said they had a chronic condition, such as diabetes or arthritis. …

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