The next generation of medical marijuana may be just around the corner.
A new study finds that people in Colorado and Washington, D.C., are starting to get high with marijuana-based products.
The study, published online Wednesday by the journal Science Translational Medicine, found that people who used cannabis-based product in the last year were more likely to report using marijuana more frequently in the year following.
In addition, they reported having used marijuana more often during the year before, according to the study.
The study authors say this could have significant implications for the future of medical cannabis, including access to it for people with chronic pain.
The researchers say the study is the first to document a link between cannabis use and pain in the United States.
Previous research has suggested that cannabis-using individuals are at greater risk of developing a chronic disease than non-using patients.
The findings may have implications for doctors who use marijuana-related products to treat patients.
“We know that some doctors are reluctant to use marijuana,” says lead author Sarah Tompkins, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of California, San Francisco.
“They may say, ‘I don’t think it will help my patients,’ or ‘It’s not for me.’
But it might help patients who are otherwise at high risk for disease.”
Tompkins says physicians are increasingly beginning to prescribe marijuana-derived products to patients with a range of conditions, including epilepsy, pain, cancer and more.
“This study helps to shed light on the importance of this potential treatment for patients with pain and anxiety,” she says.
The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, and the authors acknowledge that the findings may not be generalizable to the general population.
But they say the findings do offer some insight into how cannabis use might influence health.
“These findings highlight the need to think about how cannabis-derived drugs might be used for chronic pain management and to understand the implications of the potential risks of such use for patients,” Tompkin says.