Compassion Center is a Eugene, Oregon based mostly nonprofit medical marijuana clinic that has been serving sufferers all through the state of Oregon for greater than 10 years. We maintain two clinics every week, the place we offer bodily exams by MDs and decide whether or not sufferers have qualifying, debilitating circumstances underneath the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act (OMMA). We additionally present instructional providers referring to the OMMA and assist sufferers navigate the less-than-perfect system. We present clinic providers to just about 1500 sufferers annually, in addition to answering questions from individuals all through the US, and aiding with paperwork for sufferers whose personal docs have signed for a medical marijuana card.
We did a web-based nameless survey of sufferers in May 2011, utilizing e-mail addresses that sufferers offered as half of our clinic registration info. We despatched an preliminary e-mail, after which two follow-up e-mails to sufferers who had not but responded to the survey. We acquired 141 full survey responses—roughly 10% of our annual sufferers. All of those that accomplished the survey both had or have been within the course of of acquiring an Oregon medical marijuana card.
Limitations of the survey included that solely sufferers who had an e-mail that that they had disclosed at registration have been capable of take part. This might have skewed survey outcomes towards higher-income sufferers, who’re extra doubtless to have the ability to afford a pc or have greater than restricted entry to a pc. In addition, our sufferers who’re extraordinarily sick might not have been capable of full the survey. Although the survey was nameless, the federal authorized standing of medical marijuana might have had an impact on the veracity of responses; and we needed to depend on self-reporting relatively than goal determinations.
All of the respondents have been Oregon residents, two-thirds have been male and greater than 60% have been age 50 or older, whereas none have been underneath the age of 21 and solely 5% have been between 22 and 29 years previous. This is a sign that medical marijuana sufferers, at the least those that are served by Compassion Center, don’t match the widespread stereotype of fairly wholesome younger males who simply need to get “high.”
1 / 4 of sufferers indicated that they have been US army veterans. Considering that veterans make up solely 10% of the US inhabitants over the age of 21 (it’s barely greater in Oregon), the quantity of veterans being served by the Compassion Center is disproportionate to the inhabitants at giant. This is no surprise, contemplating the bodily and psychological well being points they face.
Approximately 1/three of these responding had a card for lower than a yr, 2.9% had playing cards for 9–11 years, and the remaining 60% have been pretty evenly distributed over multiple however lower than 9 years. This is in step with our affected person sample, which is about 2/three renewals and 1/three new sufferers.
We needed to find out what number of sufferers have been eligible for the OMMP (Oregon Medical Marijuana Program) low-income fee, so we requested whether or not sufferers have been on SNAP (meals stamps) or OHP (Oregon Health Plan), making the idea that people receiving the lower than $700 in SSI advantages would even be collaborating in these packages. We discovered that 29% of sufferers have been receiving SNAP advantages and 16% have been on the Oregon Health Plan. This quantity was decrease than we had anticipated, and can also be a lot decrease than OMMP percentages. (According to June knowledge from OMMP, low-income cardholders account for about two-thirds of all cardholders).
We additionally needed to get an concept of what proportion of sufferers acquired any variety of incapacity cost, as a result of of our notion that a big quantity of these we serve are fairly unwell or disabled. Of these responding to the survey, 37% obtain incapacity funds of some sort. This quantity wasn’t shocking, as a result of of the extent of incapacity we see within the clinic. (This info is just not tracked by the OMMP).
We knew from statewide statistics and our expertise in coping with sufferers that extreme ache is the most typical qualifying, debilitating situation for which sufferers use medical marijuana (typically along with different circumstances). Our survey discovered that 91% of respondents reported extreme ache as one of their qualifying circumstances, 33% had muscle spasms, 11% had extreme nausea, 7% had glaucoma and 6% had most cancers. None reported HIV/AIDS or cachexia, solely three% reported seizures and 1% reported agitation as a consequence of Alzheimer’s.
For a quantity of years, people and teams have petitioned and requested that the OMMP add PTSD, nervousness and different psychological well being diagnoses to the listing of qualifying debilitating circumstances. We know, for instance, that always sufferers— many of whom are veterans—use medical marijuana for aid of signs and circumstances that aren’t coated by the Oregon statute, in addition to these allowed underneath the regulation. We requested our certified sufferers whether or not they used medical hashish for different circumstances that weren’t coated, and located the next outcomes: 27% medicate for insomnia, 15% for PTSD, 31% for melancholy, 38% for nervousness and 21% for different circumstances. (Note that sufferers could also be medicating for multiple of these circumstances). Only 36% of sufferers reported that they don’t use medical marijuana for any non-qualifying circumstances.
Other Treatments Used
Some people who consider that medical marijuana is dangerous and has no medical use recommend that sufferers ought to attempt different modalities to regulate their circumstances. (There is not any dispute that different strategies also can assist, which is why Compassion Center developed the brochure “Alternative Pain Control Methods” for our sufferers with ache). Because almost all sufferers inform us that they’ve tried different strategies, we needed to get an concept about what particular strategies that they had used to deal with their circumstances. We discovered that almost all of sufferers had tried a number of of these strategies.
Responses have been as follows:
Prescription Drugs 89%
Meditation/deep respiration 46%
Dietary dietary supplements 41%
Naturopathic drugs 26%
According to the Harm Reduction Coalition, “Harm reduction is a set of practical strategies that reduce negative consequences of drug use, incorporating a spectrum of strategies from safer use to managed use to abstinence.” Prior research have proven the constructive results of medical hashish as a hurt discount technique, in that many sufferers use it to lower or give up different substances. Compassion Center’s survey echoed these findings. (We knew this was occurring as a result of many sufferers who come into the clinic state that they need to keep away from taking opiates, or get off of opiates or different drugs as a result of of hostile unwanted effects.) Only 23% of sufferers indicated that that they had not used hashish to assist them lower or give up different substances.
Of those that did use medical marijuana to lower or get rid of their use of different substances, 66% substituted it for ache drugs,18% for alcohol, 15% for tobacco, 2% for anti-seizure treatment, lower than zero.5% for methamphetamine or heroin, and 5% for different substances. These are spectacular numbers which will make drug producers shudder, however eliminating numerous prescription drugs has the potential to assist sufferers with each their funds and their well being. In addition, substituting hashish for alcohol, tobacco, or unlawful medicine can solely have a constructive impact.
Obtaining Medical Marijuana
Because the OMMP solely permits sufferers to develop their very own marijuana or have one other individual develop it for them, many complain that sufferers are unable to acquire their drugs. We present a month-to-month class to teach sufferers on the regulation round this and to introduce growers and sufferers to one another, so we knew some sufferers had an issue rising or discovering a grower.
In response to the query, “How do you most often obtain your medical marijuana?”, 37% indicated that they develop their very own and 44% that they obtained it from a grower—which is a complete of 81% of our sufferers for whom the present system is working. Less than 1% reported that they bought it from a dispensary, four% purchased it on the black market, 6% acquired it from different sufferers, 2% belonged to a cooperative, and solely 6% reported that they have been unable to acquire medical marijuana.
On the survey query that requested sufferers how troublesome they discovered it to acquire medical marijuana, greater than half reported that it’s considerably or very straightforward, whereas solely about 22% discovered it considerably troublesome and seven% discovered it very troublesome. This 7% is in step with the 6% who reported that they don’t seem to be capable of get hold of medical marijuana. This quantity is smaller than estimates that have been bandied about to point out the necessity for dispensaries, however they do present that for a proportion of medical marijuana sufferers the present system just isn’t working.
One different approach that the OMMP permits sufferers to acquire medical marijuana is from one other affected person who’s both rising it or has a grower and is ready to get hold of greater than they want. In response to our query “Do you help any other patients by giving them excess medical marijuana?”, about 47% stated sure, whereas about 53% stated no. We didn’t ask about why or why not, however clearly this facet of the OMMP is working for some sufferers. (It can be fascinating to study whether or not this modified after threats from the federal authorities led some medical marijuana associated organizations to get rid of packages that coordinated the change of drugs between sufferers.)
Method of Use
There is a perception, perpetuated by the media and people against medical marijuana, in addition to its historic use, that medical hashish is just used by smoking. Many individuals—even physicians—who usually are not concerned within the area aren’t even conscious that medical hashish could be administered aside from by smoking. Compassion Center advises sufferers to not smoke hashish if in any respect attainable. This is particularly true for these with persistent lung or immune system illnesses. In order to find out whether or not this recommendation is working, we requested our sufferers “What method do you use or plan to use for taking your medical marijuana?” The outcomes present that the majority sufferers use a number of strategies, and that vaporizing and edibles are simply as widespread as smoking.
The survey confirmed the next percentages for every technique:
Hash, honey or Rick Simpson oil 23%
Ointment or lotion 18%
One of the claims made by regulation enforcement in Oregon is that the OMMP is only a cowl for leisure use of marijuana. We are conscious that this can be true in some instances, however our expertise didn’t lead us to consider that it was greater than a minor drawback. Many sufferers who come to Compassion Center inform us that they haven’t used marijuana in any respect, or since they have been youthful once they experimented. We additionally get rather a lot of requests from sufferers who need the aid that they consider they may get for his or her signs, however don’t need to get “high.” So our survey requested about leisure use of marijuana. Backing up these anecdotal stories, we discovered that almost 85% of respondents reported that they don’t use marijuana recreationally—a direct contradiction to regulation enforcement allegations. Another essential level is that even when 15% of sufferers use hashish recreationally, that alone doesn’t invalidate their medical use.
This survey was a preliminary effort to determine who our sufferers are and the way they use medical marijuana. The outcomes reinforce a lot of what we already knew based mostly on particular person affected person reporting and provides new info to our information base. They additionally present that the claims and biases of regulation enforcement and others about who medical marijuana sufferers are and why they use this drugs usually are not actually correct. It additionally provides us a fantastic start line for studying extra about the place the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program and our providers are working and failing, and the way we will higher serve our sufferers.
First appeared in Issue three of Cannabis Now Magazine.