Research Article| Volume 20, ISSUE 8, P908-916, August 2019

Pain Relief as a Motivation for Cannabis Use Among Young Adult Users With and Without Chronic Pain

Published:February 05, 2019DOI:


      • Chronic pain is common among young adults who frequently use cannabis.
      • Pain relief was the primary motivation for use in users with chronic pain.
      • Participants with chronic pain endorsed a riskier cannabis use profile.
      • Both groups of users experienced negative consequences owing to use.


      This study aims to determine the rate of chronic pain in a community sample of young adult cannabis users, assess the extent to which pain relief is an important motivation for cannabis use, and explore differences in consumption patterns and problem behaviors between users with and without chronic pain. The study design was cross-sectional. Self-selected community-dwelling young adults (ages 18–29 years; n = 143) who regularly use cannabis completed an online survey. Results revealed that approximately 40% of the sample met the criteria for chronic pain, and pain relief was their primary motivation for use. There were no differences between groups with respect to frequency of use or estimated potency of their preferred strains; however, users with chronic pain reported using a wider variety of administration methods and a greater quantity of cannabis with each use. Users with chronic pain also reported more extensive histories of use, with younger age at initiation and longer duration of regular use. Despite riskier consumption patterns, there were no between-group differences in negative consequences owing to use after controlling for gender and educational status. On average, the total sample reported approximately 8 problems in the past 30 days owing to use. These findings suggest that chronic pain is commonly experienced among young adult cannabis users and pain relief is the primary motivation for users with pain. For some users, clinically significant chronic pain and pain-related interference persist despite heavy use. Cannabis users with and without chronic pain report experiencing several negative consequences owing to their use.


      This article compares motivations for cannabis use and describes differences in consumption patterns among a community sample of young adult users with and without chronic pain. This information may be useful for providers who assess and treat pain in young adults, particularly in settings that have legalized recreational use.

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