Background: Medical cannabis (MC) utilization continues to expand in the United States, as a growing body of evidence supports the use of cannabis and cannabinoids in the treatment of a range of chronic conditions. To date, gender-related differences in MC use are not widely reported, and little is known regarding physicians’ support of patients’ use of MC to address symptoms associated with chronic conditions.
Materials and Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional online survey of MC users in Illinois (n = 361). We summarized participants’ qualifying conditions, symptoms treated with MC, perceived physician support for MC use, use of MC and prescription medications, then analyzed differences by participant gender.
Results: Bivariate analyses indicate that men report higher levels of support for MC use from both specialist and primary care physicians. Women were significantly more likely to increase use of cannabis after acquiring an MC card, and to discontinue prescription medications through MC use. Multivariable analyses indicate that being a woman, using MC to treat multiple symptoms, and reporting higher levels of support for MC use from a primary care provider significantly increased the likelihood of discontinuing prescription medication through MC use.
Discussion: Women are more likely to report decreased use of prescription medications to treat symptoms, and report lower levels of support from physicians for MC use. Future research on gender differences in this population may benefit from more detailed data related to symptomology, utilization, dosing, and outcomes associated with MC, and interactions with the health care system to extend these findings.
Keywords: chronic conditions, gender differences, medical cannabis, pain