Utilization of medicinal cannabis for pain by individuals with spinal cord injury


Study design

A cross-sectional multi-center study using an on-line survey addressing utilization, knowledge, and perceptions of medicinal cannabis (MC) by people with spinal cord injury (SCI).


To characterize differences between current (CU), past (PU), and never users (NU) of MC with SCI; to determine why people with SCI use MC; to examine reports of MCs’ efficacy and tolerability by individuals with SCI.


Three academic medical centers in the United States.


Comparison of demographic and attitudinal differences between CU, PU, and NU and differences in the groups’ reports of pain, health, and quality of life (QOL). Evaluation of utilization patterns and perceived efficacy of MC among CU and PU and reports of side effects of MC versus prescription medications. Data were analyzed using either Chi Square, distribution-free exact statistics, or t-tests for continuous data.


Among a nationwide sample (n = 353) of individuals with SCI, NU were less likely than CU and PU to believe that cannabis ought to be legalized and more likely to endorse risks of use. Current users and PU reported greater pain interference in daily life than did NU, but there were no between group differences in QOL or physical or emotional health. Current users and PU took MC to address pain (65.30%), spasms (63.30%), sleeplessness (32.70%), and anxiety (24.00%), and 63.30% reported it offered “great relief” from symptoms. Participants reported that MC is more effective and carries fewer side effects than prescription medications.


Medicinal cannabis is an effective and well-tolerated treatment for a number of SCI-related symptoms.

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Author contributions

MS was responsible for researching and developing the survey, submitting the project to the IRB, coordinating survey distribution, and drafting the manuscript. MC assisted with survey development, was primarily responsible for data analysis, and helped draft the manuscript. MM was responsible for researching and developing the survey, building the on-line survey, and drafting the manuscript. TR was responsible for researching and developing the survey, helping analyze the data, and drafting the manuscript. KG was responsible for researching and developing the survey, helping analyze the data, and drafting the manuscript. AB was responsible for researching and developing the survey, helping analyze the data, and drafting the manuscript. DG was responsible for researching and developing the survey, helping analyze the data, and drafting the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Michael Stillman.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Statement of ethics

This study was reviewed by the Thomas Jefferson University Institutional Review Board and deemed exempt. We certify that all applicable institutional and governmental regulations concerning the ethical use of human volunteers were following during the course of this research.

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