Cannabis consumers frequently use it to replace prescription medicines, according to a survey published in The Harm Reduction Journal this month.
The survey, conducted by a team from the Center for Alcohol and Drug Research in Aarhus, Denmark questioned over 2,800 cannabis consumers to understand the motivation and impact of substituting common prescription drugs such as opioids and anti depressants with cannabis.
46% of respondents said that their use of medical cannabis led them to “substantially decrease” their use of prescription medications, while 38% reported ceasing their use of at least one prescription medicine. 66% of respondents perceived cannabis to be “much more effective” than prescription drugs and 86% said that cannabis had less side effects.
Of the 2,841 respondents, 91% were using non-prescribed cannabis, and 54% used cannabis with the intention of replacing a prescribed drug.
The majority of survey respondents were female (63%), aged 45 years or older (64%) and identified themselves as having “limited recreational experience” with cannabis (64%).
While numerous studies in North America have shown similar results, the authors of this study believe it is the largest to date on self-reported use of cannabis as a substitution for prescription drugs in Europe. The authors stated that “findings from our sample show that most substitution users find cannabis as a medicine more effective in managing their conditions compared to prescription drugs, and that an overwhelming majority found [cannabis] to have a better side effect profile compared to the prescription drugs that they had been prescribed for their conditions.”
“Pain medication was the most prevalent prescription drug substituted with cannabis, followed by antidepressants and arthritis medication… Substitution users reported substantial decrease or cessation of prescription drug use, and a greater effect and far better side effect profile of cannabis compared to prescription drugs. Thus, from the perspective of substitution users, cannabis may be viewed as the lesser of two evils compared to prescription drugs.”