I am an MSc Cognitive Neuroscience student at Durham University. Prior to this, I completed a BSc in Psychology with first-class honours at the same institution. My research interests lie in the area of psychopharmacology, including the effects of recreational drug use on the brain and cognition and the potentially therapeutic properties of traditionally recreational drugs, such as cannabis and psychedelics. I have assisted with various research projects exploring recreational and medical drug use patterns, including research conducted by the Global Drug Survey, The Loop and Drugs and Me. Most recently, my MSc thesis utilised data from the 2017 Global Drug Survey to investigate recreational and medical cannabis use in a large, global sample. Outside of research, I am the Chair of Students for Sensible Drug Policy UK, a grassroots network of students advocating for welfare-focused drug policy on campus and beyond.
People who use cannabis for pleasure and pain are not the same: A comparison of cannabis use patterns among recreational and medical cannabis users from the Global Drug Survey
*Aims* This study investigated medical cannabis use in a large, international sample by comparing medical and recreational cannabis users and medical cannabis patients treating different disorders on a range of demographic and substance use characteristics.
*Methods* The Global Drug Survey is the largest online survey of substance use. This paper involved an analysis of data from >40,000 past year cannabis users across 205 countries who completed the 2017 survey.
*Results* 6% of participants used cannabis mostly medically and 1.1% exclusively medically. Medical cannabis users were older and more likely to be female. They used cannabis more frequently and in greater quantities, spent longer stoned and preferred healthier preparations and routes of administration. Medical cannabis users reported more prescription whereas recreational cannabis users reported more recreational drug use. The most commonly treated conditions were chronic pain, sleep disorders, depression and anxiety. Patients treating sleep disorders found cannabis more effective but more frequently self-diagnosed their condition and failed to disclose their cannabis use to their doctors. Reporting tolerance and out-of-control use was more common in psychiatric patients.
*Conclusions* Medical and recreational cannabis users differed, with the former using cannabis in a manner consistent with medical administration. However, many patients used cannabis to treat conditions for which there is limited clinical evidence of its efficacy (sleep disorders, anxiety, depression), with many sleep patients self-medicating and many psychiatric patients exhibiting signs of dependency. This highlights the need for better communication between doctors and patients about medical cannabis and careful monitoring of medical cannabis use.