To describe medical marijuana use from the perspectives of patients with
A qualitative, descriptive design was used. Participants discussed their
medicinal marijuana use in one-to-one, semistructured interviews.
Interviews were conducted at a time and place convenient to participants.
Six men and eight women with multiple sclerosis participated.
Potential participants identified themselves to the researcher after
receiving an invitation in a mailed survey. Eligibility was confirmed, and
purposive sampling was used to recruit subjects. A range of issues emerged
from the interviews. Interviews and data analysis continued until saturation
Descriptions fell into three broad areas: patterns of use, legal or social
concerns, and perceived effects. Consumption patterns ranged from very
infrequent to very regular and were influenced by symptoms, social factors,
and supply. Legal concerns expressed by most respondents were negligible.
Social concerns centred on to whom use was revealed. The perceived benefits
of use were consistent with previous reports in the literature: reduction in
pain, spasms, tremors, nausea, numbness, sleep problems, bladder and bowel
problems, and fatigue and improved mood, ability to eat and drink, ability
to write, and sexual functioning. Adverse effects included problems with
cognition, balance, and fatigue and the feeling of being high. Although
participants described risks associated with using marijuana, the benefits
they derived made the risks acceptable.
Further research is needed to clarify the safety and efficacy of marijuana
use by patients with multiple sclerosis. If evidence of benefit is seen,
medicinal marijuana should be made available to patients who could benefit
from it. Until then, discussing medicinal marijuana use with patients will
be awkward for health professionals.