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Tuesday, Aug 16, 2022
Mugglehead Magazine
Alternative investment news based in Vancouver, B.C.


Cannabis use for anxiety increased in US after Covid-19, study shows

During the pandemic, women were about twice as likely as men to use cannabis more frequently to manage anxiety

Woman smoking a joint in a kitchen
There are more than 5.4 million state-legal medical cannabis patients in the U.S. Photo by Sonya Yruel via the Drug Policy Alliance

Some Americans have relied on cannabis to manage their mental health needs during the pandemic, particularly for anxiety, a new study suggests.

While there have been reports of cannabis use rising during the pandemic, researchers from the study — published online last week ahead of print in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research — sought to understand the specific therapeutic changes after the onset of Covid-19.

Using survey data from regular consumers the first year of the pandemic, the study shows a “slight but significant” increase in the frequency of cannabis use overall after the pandemic was declared.

Researchers say the results are “likely driven by an increase in the prevalence of daily cannabis use to address anxiety.”

Among participants, daily cannabis use for anxiety went rose to 25.4 per cent from 18.5 per cent before the pandemic. The odds of consuming pot for anxiety are higher among women, respondents from western states and states that have legalized cannabis.

“The findings of this study suggest that a small portion of past-year medical cannabis users relied on cannabis to manage ongoing or emerging mental health needs during the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic,” researchers say.

According to the study, women were about twice as likely as men to increase the frequency of cannabis use to manage anxiety after the pandemic was declared.

Previous studies have shown women experience elevated mental health problems relative to men. And, among medical cannabis patients, women tend to be over-represented among those using cannabis for anxiety — significantly more women than men report therapeutic benefit for anxiety.

“As more women turn to cannabis or cannabis-based products to manage anxiety, there is an urgent need to probe potential underlying societal and biological drivers of this trend,” researchers add.

Cannabis use on the rise already, or influenced by pandemic?

Research has shown that Covid-19 has taken a toll on peoples’ mental health, whether it’s increased stress and anxiety about getting the virus or loneliness and depression as a result of stay-at-home orders to curb transmission of the virus.

Nearly half of Americans reported struggling with their mental health during the pandemic.

Overall, the new study found noticeable shifts towards more frequent pot use, from occasional to weekly or daily use. Weekly cannabis use rose to 23.4 per cent from 21.4 per cent, and daily to 20.7 per cent from 16.2 per cent.

Bar graph showing frequency of cannabis use increased slightly during the pandemic

Graphic via ‘Selective Changes in Medical Cannabis Use Early in the COVID-19 Pandemic: Findings from a Web-Based Sample of Adults in the United States’

More than half of respondents who upped their medical cannabis use reported that more time at home during the pandemic played a role in their consumption patterns.

On the other hand, about one-in-three respondents who consumed less cannabis after the onset of Covid-19 cited concerns about the risk of infection as an influencing factor.

The study looked at whether modes of consumption would shift away from smoking during the pandemic, perhaps as a strategy to prevent infection or reduce symptom severity, but any significant changes weren’t identified.

Read more: Canadian researchers concerned over continued spike in Covid-related cannabis and alcohol sales

Read more: More studies are showing how cannabinoids help fight Covid

Researchers say it’s plausible that factors related to stay-at-home orders, like isolation or boredom, contributed to respondents’ shift to more frequent cannabis use for anxiety.

It’s also possible that loss of income or other financial restraints as a result of the pandemic prevent people from consuming more cannabis. “It is worth noting that ‘cost of cannabis’ was the most commonly reported reason for shifting medical cannabis use among those whose frequency decreased during Covid-19,” researchers add.

The results of the study are limited to only a fraction of the U.S. population of medical cannabis users.

“Our finding may simply be a product of steadily rising rates of cannabis use, including for various therapeutic purposes, among adults in the United States as cannabis laws continue to be reformed. However, it is notable that we did not observe any increases in cannabis use to manage any other condition or symptom of interest.”

Data for the study came from a web-based survey of 1,886 American adults aged 18 and older, who self-report using pot for medical or recreational reasons and had consumed in the past year. Participants were recruited through Reddit, Twitter, Bluelight, and Craigslist and completed the survey between August and September 2020.

There are more than 5.4 million state-legal medical cannabis patients in over 30 U.S. states. The list of qualifying conditions to access medical cannabis differs by state but include insomnia, pain, anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Read more: New York allows medical pot for any condition at doctors’ discretion

Read more: Clinical trial in UK to look at medical cannabis as treatment for long Covid


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