Medical Cannabis and Chronic Pain (2016)

May, 18, 2017

Across the United States, there are now 29 states that offer legal access to medical cannabis. With industry revenue exceeding $6.7 billion in 2016, it’s time for the public to understand how and why patients and consumers are using cannabis to treat their symptoms.

Aclara Research has conducted the first study across Michigan patients’ usage and purchase behavior of medical marijuana usage to find relief from the symptoms of chronic pain.

Aclara is a research panel and online community of medical marijuana patients. Members share their experiences on key issues, providing real time access to medical marijuana patient insights to businesses and legislators that impact access to marijuana as medicine. These insights impact business strategy and product development across the cannabis, health care and wellness industries.

Our study was conducted across Michigan patients about their use of cannabis, patient – doctor communication and decrease in prescription drug usage by symptom. This study, “Medical Cannabis and Chronic Pain (MCCP),” has quantified unique aspects of patients’ experience, to include:

  • Symptoms
  • Prescription Drug Usage/ Pre and Post Cannabis
  • Preferred consumption methods
  • Integration with the health care system

What chronic pain really means

Many people believe that patients who select chronic pain aren’t being truthful – they just want access to legal marijuana. Some of us know people who simply want access to marijuana and are not using it to minimize chronic pain symptoms. But let’s review the facts of chronic pain.

First, it’s REAL. It’s a condition recognized by the Center for Disease Control, the American Academy of Pain Medicine, the National Institute of Health – among others. Board-certified emergency medicine specialist Dr. William Blahd defines chronic pain as “a daily or almost-daily pain that lasts longer than six months. Chronic pain can be mild or excruciating, episodic or continuous, and sometimes inconvenient or even totally debilitating.”1

Second, 100 million American adults suffer from chronic pain – more people than cancer, diabetes, heart attack and stroke combined.  As Dr. Josephine Briggs of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health said, “The number of people who suffer from severe and lasting pain is striking.”

Chronic pain manifests in a variety of symptoms. For the first time, NorthStar asked chronic pain patients to report the specific symptoms for which they use cannabis to treat. The most common are (1) difficulty sleeping, (2) back pain and (3) anxiety.



Across total respondents, these were also the leading symptoms, regardless of condition. However, chronic pain patients are more likely to treat these symptoms-which impact over 110 Million Americans.


Given these extraordinary numbers, it’s no surprise that severe and chronic pain represents the largest group of patients across every state for which it’s included on the condition lists. As adult use markets expand, patients and consumers with these symptoms will increasingly search for products designed to meet their unique needs. And as an industry, we must include patient insights into the product development process. Patient centric product development will increase satisfaction levels, increase repeat purchase rates and generate higher ROI across the industry.