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UGA: Researchers to Study Medical Cannabis and Chronic Pain

A team of researchers at the University of Georgia will study how legalized medical cannabis affects people living with chronic pain.

To date, 34 states and the District of Columbia have adopted medical cannabis laws, or MCLs, which legalize either home cultivation or dispensary-based sales of cannabis for qualifying medical conditions.

The researchers want to determine if MCLs alter the health behaviors of people living with chronic pain and whether they substitute or reduce traditional pain treatments while using medical cannabis.

The research project is funded by a $3.5 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a branch of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Dr. David Bradford, George D. Busbee Chair in Public Policy in the University of Georgia School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA), is joined by co-investigators Dr. Amanda Abraham, associate professor in SPIA, and Dr. Grace Bagwell Adams, assistant professor in the University of Georgia College of Public Health.

“We are thrilled to get started on this work,” said Dr. Adams. “Much of the policy change has happened quickly in a landscape that is not well understood at the patient level. This work is going to contribute to our understanding about the intersectionality of medical cannabis policy and the behavior of chronic pain patients.”

“Researchers have been able to document reductions in aggregate prescription use, especially opioids, after states implement MCLs,” Dr. Bradford said. “But there is almost no research on how a large representative sample of individual patients respond to medical cannabis access.”

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