Now that 33 states have legalized cannabis in some form and the plant sheds its stigma, more than two-thirds of American adults said they have used or would consider using marijuana or CBD to manage pain, but most don’t understand the risks, according to a recent survey.
The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) conducted an online survey among 1,005 Americans 18 years or older in August, as ASA members have grown concerned patients in pain are unaware marijuana and CBD may not be safer than other medications.
The survey found 75 per cent of Americans who expressed interest in using cannabis to address pain are under the impression they are safer or have fewer side effects than opioids or other medications. But the ASA warns using marijuana or CBD can have side effects — ranging from excessive sleepiness to liver damage — and cannabis products aren’t federally regulated or monitored for quality.
– Dr. Linda Mason, ASA president
Millennials lead all generations in the escalating interest with three-quarters of respondents saying they are at least interested in using cannabis to treat pain, while 37 per cent noting they have used them for pain. Two-thirds of Generation X and baby boomers expressed interest, with 25 per cent of Gen Xers and 18 per cent of baby boomers saying they have used cannabis for pain.
— ASA® (@ASALifeline) August 30, 2019
Misunderstanding with FDA approval of CBD
Forty per cent of respondents are under the impression CBD sold in grocery stores, truck stops and cannabis dispensaries has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with younger respondents more likely to hold that opinion.
The reality is the FDA has only approved one prescription version of CBD for patients with one of two rare forms of epilepsy, a drug called Epidiolex that is made by GW Pharmaceuticals PLC (NASDAQ:GWPH). The FDA is currently researching CBD to come up with rules for the touted wellness extract, and the agency said it will provide the public with an update on its research this fall.
While CBD derived from hemp is technically legal federally, when the compound is derived from cannabis it is still considered a Schedule 1 banned substance.
States that have legalized cannabis for adult use or medically have come up with their own set of regulations for cannabis products, including CBD. But some studies have shown CBD extracts are often mislabeled and the actual ingredients may differ, with some containing dangerous synthetic compounds, pesticides and other impurities.
Nearly half of the survey respondents said they are confident they know what they are getting when purchasing cannabis products.
ASA supporting cannabis research
Considering how marijuana and CBD is in uncharted territory with consumers unable to know exactly what they are purchasing, the ASA is pushing for more research.
The ASA said it recently endorsed two bills that focus on expanding CBD and cannabis research: the Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2019 tabled in the U.S. Congress, and the Cannabidiol and Marihuana Research Expansion Act out of the U.S. Senate.
Members of the ASA are looking to help fill the void in clinical research, which they believe is vital in educating the public and setting up regulations so products no longer are mislabelled or contain dangerous impurities.
The ASA survey also showed 62 per cent of respondents who have used or would consider using cannabis would do so because they believe they are safer than opioids, while 57 per cent believe pot or CBD has fewer side effects than other medications.
While the Colorado government recently allowed doctors to prescribe medical marijuana in place of opioids, it’s still uncertain how effective marijuana is as an alternative treatment option. However, as more people use cannabis in lieu of opioids, there will be more data available to study and to help assess the effectiveness of cannabis. What’s clear from the survey results is there are many people out there desperate for relief that are willing to try it.
Cannabis companies are also investing in cannabis research as they have a major interest in making sure that people are using products that are safe and offer positive results. Cannabis use can be a polarizing topic and any scandal or negative headline can set the industry back and make lawmakers hesitant toward legalization. Ensuring that a user gets the cannabis product most suitable for their needs benefits not only the consumer but the company selling the product and the industry as a whole.