First-Year Trajectories of Medical Cannabis Use Among Adults Taking Opioids for Chronic Pain: An Observational Cohort Study

Jonathan Ross, Deepika E. Slawek, Chenshu Zhang, Joanna L. Starrels, Frances R. Levin, Nancy L. Sohler, Haruka Minami, Julia H. Arnsten, Chinazo O. Cunningham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objective: To describe first-year trajectories of medical cannabis use and identify characteristics associated with patterns of use in a cohort of adults using opioids for chronic pain. Design: Latent class trajectory analysis of a prospective cohort study using data on the 14-day frequency of medical cannabis use. Setting: A large academic medical center and four medical cannabis dispensaries in the New York City metropolitan area. Subjects: Adults with chronic pain using opioids and newly certified for medical cannabis in New York between 2018 and 2020. Methods: Using latent class trajectory analysis, we identified clusters of participants based on the 14-day frequency of medical cannabis use. We used logistic regression to determine factors associated with cluster membership, including sociodemographic characteristics, pain, substance use, and mental health symptoms. Results: Among 99 participants, the mean age was 53 years; 62% were women, and 52% were White. We identified three clusters of medical cannabis use: infrequent use (n = 30, mean use = 1.5 days/14-day period), occasional use (n = 28, mean = 5.7 days/14-day period), and frequent use (n = 41, mean = 12.1 days/14-day period). Within clusters, use patterns did not vary significantly over 52 weeks. Differences were observed in two sociodemographic variables: Frequent (vs infrequent) use was associated with non-Hispanic White race/ethnicity (adjusted odds ratio 4.54, 95% confidence interval 1.49-14.29), while occasional (vs infrequent) use was associated with employment (adjusted odds ratio 13.84, 95% confidence interval 1.21-158.74). Conclusions: Three clusters of medical cannabis use patterns emerged and were stable over time. Results suggest that structural factors related to race/ethnicity and employment may be major drivers of medical cannabis use, even among adults certified for its use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3080-3088
Number of pages9
JournalPain Medicine (United States)
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021


  • Cannabis
  • Chronic Pain
  • Complementary Medicine
  • Medical Cannabis
  • Pain Management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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