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Open Access 17-06-2024 | Original Article

Cannabis use by individuals with spinal cord injury in the UK: a call for improved patient education and physician awareness for pain and spasticity management

Authors: Mohammad Anas, Usman Raja, Bilal Ibrahim Ahmad, Wajid A. Raza

Published in: European Spine Journal

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Abstract

Study design

Prospective observational qualitative study.

Objective

Cannabis is used by patients for the treatment of chronic pain, spasticity, sleep issues or mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. Since 2018, it has been authorised in the United Kingdom for medical use as an unlicensed medicine. This study aims to determine if patients are using cannabis for the management of symptoms related to spinal cord injury, and if so, whether they are using medical or illicit cannabis.

Methods

Spinal cord injury patients from the Yorkshire Regional Spinal Injuries Centre and SPINE Community in the United Kingdom were surveyed. Participants were sent a 7-point electronic survey. All results were anonymous, and confidentiality was maintained throughout the process.

Results

In total, 223 patients completed the survey. Not all patients answered every question. Of those who responded 65.35% (n = 132) were paraplegic and 34.65% (n = 70) were tetraplegic. Patients were suffering from chronic pain (longer than 3 months), spasticity, loss of/difficulty in sleeping or anxiety/depression. Almost 15% (14.93%, n = 33 out of 221) used cannabis to manage their symptoms, out of those the majority used street cannabis (79.41%, n = 27 out of 34) were using street cannabis.

Conclusion

This study demonstrates that there are spinal cord injury patients in the UK using cannabis to treat their symptoms. A majority appear to be using illicit cannabis. Given that cannabis can interact with other medications, and that the quality and content of illicit cannabis can be highly variable and at times dangerous, it is important for physicians to discuss cannabis use with their patients. This can inform prescribing and allow them to educate patients on the dangers of medical cannabis and potential alternatives.
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Metadata
Title
Cannabis use by individuals with spinal cord injury in the UK: a call for improved patient education and physician awareness for pain and spasticity management
Authors
Mohammad Anas
Usman Raja
Bilal Ibrahim Ahmad
Wajid A. Raza
Publication date
17-06-2024
Publisher
Springer Berlin Heidelberg
Published in
European Spine Journal
Print ISSN: 0940-6719
Electronic ISSN: 1432-0932
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s00586-024-08362-y