Content » Vol 49, Issue 2

Original report

Cannabis use in persons with traumatic spinal cord injury in Denmark

Sven R. Andresen, Fin Biering-Sørensen, Ellen Merete Hagen, Jørgen F. Nielsen, Flemming W. Bach, Nanna B. Finnerup
Spinal Cord Injury Centre of Western Denmark, Department of Neurology, Regional Hospital of Viborg, DK-8800 Viborg, Denmark. E-mail: sven.robert.andresen@midt.rm.dk

DOI: 10.2340/16501977-2105

Abstract

Objective: To evaluate recreational and medical cannabis use in individuals with traumatic spinal cord injury, including reasons and predictors for use, perceived benefits and negative consequences.
Design: Cross-sectional survey in Denmark.
Methods: A 35-item questionnaire was sent to 1,101 patients with spinal cord injury who had been in contact with a rehabilitation centre between 1990 and 2012.
Results: A total of 537 participants completed the questionnaire. Of these, 36% had tried cannabis at least once and 9% were current users. Of current users, 79% had started to use cannabis before their spinal cord injury. The main reason for use was pleasure, but 65% used cannabis partly for spinal cord injury-related consequences and 59% reported at least good effect on pain and spasticity. Negative consequences of use were primarily inertia and feeling quiet/subdued. Lower age, living in rural areas/larger cities, tobacco-smoking, high alcohol intake and higher muscle stiffness were significantly associated with cannabis use. Those who had never tried cannabis reported that they would mainly use cannabis to alleviate pain and spasticity if it were legalized.
Conclusion: Cannabis use is more frequent among individuals with spinal cord injury in Denmark than among the general population. High muscle stiffness and various demographic characteristics (lower age, living in rural areas/larger cities, tobacco-smoking and high alcohol intake) were associated with cannabis use. Most participants had started using cannabis before their spinal cord injury. There was considerable overlap between recreational and disability-related use.

Lay Abstract

Cannabis use and TBI
This study used a questionnare survey including 537 traumatic spinal cord-injured individuals who answered our questions on demographics, spinal cord injury, pain, spasticity, quality of life, sleep and cannabis use. The survey concluded that about one-third of all participants had tried cannabis at least once; of those 75% were former cannabis users and 25% were current cannabis users. Most of the participants started using cannabis before their spinal cord injury. There was considerable overlap between recreational and disability-related use. We found that lower age, residence in rural areas and larger cities, smoking, high alcohol intake and higher muscle stiffness were associated with cannabis use.

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