Cancer: study shows increasing use of weed, but not opioids

  • Tringale KR & al.
  • Cancer
  • 22 Apr 2019

  • International Clinical Digest
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  • A significant proportion of patients with cancer report cannabis use.
  • Cannabis use has increased over time in patients with and without cancer.

Why this matters

  • Although patients with cancer were more likely to use opioids, opioid use did not increase over time.
  • "Medical marijuana legalization has previously been associated with a reduction in hospitalizations related to opioid dependence or abuse, suggesting that if patients are in fact substituting marijuana for opioids, this may introduce an opportunity for reducing opioid-related morbidity and mortality,” a coauthor said in a news release.

Study design

  • Data for 19,604 US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey respondents aged 20-60 years during 2005-2014; 4.2% reported having cancer.
  • 826 patients with cancer were propensity score-matched with 1652 noncancer "controls."
  • Funding: NIH.     

Key results

  • Patients with cancer reported greater rates past-year (40.3% vs 38.0%) and current cannabis use (8.7% vs 6.6%).
  • Patients with cancer were more than twice as likely to use opioids (13.9% vs 6.4%; OR=2.43; P<.001 and smoke cigarettes vs or="1.34; P=.005).</li">
  • In multivariate analysis, cancer was tied to higher odds of opioid use (aOR=1.82; P=.008) but not current cannabis use.
  • Overall, odds of cannabis use increased over the 10-year span (9.3% to 12.3%; OR per 2-year span=1.05; P=.012), but opioid use remained stable.
    • No statistically significant difference in longitudinal odds of cannabis or opioid use in patients with vs without cancer.


  • Patient-reported data.
  • Cross-sectional design.

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