Objective: Despite advances in treatments and outcomes among patients with rheumatic diseases, there is an unmet need in pain management. Cannabis has emerged as a potential opioid-sparing alternative, with arthritic pain as a commonly cited reason for medicinal cannabis use. However, little is known, and we set out to understand patterns of cannabis use in a US-wide rheumatic disease population. Methods: The study included participants in FORWARD, The National Databank for Rheumatic Diseases. Participants were asked in 2014 and 2019 about their past and current cannabis use. Demographic characteristics, patient-reported outcomes, medications, comorbidities, and diagnoses were compared between cannabis users and non-users with t-tests, chi-square tests, logistic regression, and geographic assessment. Results: Among 11,006 respondents, cannabis use increased from 6.3% in 2014 to 18.4% in 2019, with the greatest prevalence of use in states where cannabis use was legalized. Most users (74% and 62% in 2014 and 2019, respectively) reported that cannabis was effective in the relief of arthritis symptoms. Cannabis users were more likely to be taking weak opioids (odds ratio 1.2 [95% confidence interval 1.0, 1.5], P = 0.03), to have a history of smoking tobacco (odds ratio 1.7 [95% confidence interval 1.5, 2.1], P < 0.001), and had worse measures on all assessed patient-reported outcomes. Conclusion: Reported cannabis use in this cohort increased significantly between 2014 and 2019. Characteristics of users suggest that those who try cannabis are feeling worse symptomatically, and their pain management needs may not be adequately addressed by other therapies. The association between cannabis, opioids, and patient-reported outcomes highlight areas for future work.
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