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Spotlighting New Zealand's medicinal cannabis users

Embargoed until: Publicly released:

Who uses cannabis medicinally in New Zealand, and what conditions are they trying to treat? About five percent of Kiwis report using cannabis medicinally, according to a new national survey study covering 13,000 people. Those using cannabis medicinally tended to be male, younger, less educated and relatively poor and used cannabis predominantly to alleviate chronic pain, anxiety and depression.

Journal/conference: New Zealand Medical Journal

Organisation/s: Victoria University of Wellington

From: New Zealand Medical Association


AIM: To explore the characteristics of medicinal and non-medicinal cannabis users, and the conditions that were treated with cannabis.

METHODS: The data comes from the New Zealand Health Survey 2012/2013, which sampled 13,009 people, aged 15+ years, living in private or non-private dwellings in New Zealand. Participants self-reported cannabis use and were put into groups: 1) non-users; 2) ex-users; 3) last year users—non-medicinal; 4) last-year users—medicinal. Prevalence was reported for the major demographic subgroups; sex, age and ethnicity. Regression models were then used to find associations between demographic characteristics and cannabis use for groups 3 and 4.

RESULTS/CONCLUSIONS: About five percent (4.6%, 95% CI 4.1–5.1) of those aged 15+ report using cannabis medicinally. This use was associated with being male, younger, less well-educated and relatively poor. While Māori have the highest prevalence of medicinal use, European NZ/Others make up 67.9% (95% CI 62.7–72.6) of medicinal users. Reported medicinal use was associated with reported conditions that were typically hard to manage; pain, anxiety/nerves and depression. Medicinal users were more likely to report chronic pain and pain interfering, moderately or more, with housework and other work.

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