A cross-sectional survey of cannabis use by people with MS in Oregon and Southwest Washington


Jessica Rice, Andrea Hildebrand, Rebecca Spain, Angela Senders, Elizabeth Silbermann, Lindsey Wooliscroft, Vijayshree Yadav, Dennis Bourdette, Michelle Cameron

Published in Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders


October 2021


Background: Evidence supports that cannabinoids reduce self-reported spasticity and neuropathic pain in people with MS (PwMS), and legal access to cannabis for medical and recreational use continues to rise. However, there are limited data regarding patterns of cannabis use and perceived benefits of cannabis among PwMS in the US. This study describes the prevalence of cannabis use, routes of administration, perceived benefit of cannabis for MS, and characteristics associated with cannabis use and perception of benefit among a population of PwMS living in two states where cannabis is legal for both medical and recreational use.

Methods: A survey about treatments used by PwMS, focusing on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), was sent to PwMS living in Oregon and Southwest Washington. This survey included questions about current and past cannabis use, route of cannabis administration, and perceived benefits, as well as personal demographics.

Results: Of the 1188 returned surveys, 1000 had at least 75% complete survey responses and also completed the questions about current and past cannabis use. Thirty percent (n=303) of respondents reported currently using cannabis, 21% (n=210) used in the past but not currently, and 49% (n=487) had never used cannabis. Among current users, rates of use by smoking, vaping, topicals, tinctures and oils, or edibles were similar (35-46%), and most (59%) reported using multiple routes of administration. Most (64-78%, varying by route) current and past users reported cannabis being very or somewhat beneficial for their MS.

The odds of current cannabis use were higher in PwMS who: 1) were younger (OR 2.24 [95% CI 1.39-3.61] for those age 18-40 compared with age >60]; 2) had lower household income (OR 3.94 [95% CI 2.55-6.09] with annual income <$25k compared with those with >$100k); 3) had secondary progressive MS (OR 1.77 [95% CI 1.07-2.92]); and 4) had more than minimal MS disability (OR 2.05 [95% CI 1.03-4.10] for those using a walker compared to those with none/minimal disability). The odds of perceiving cannabis as beneficial for MS were higher in: 1) younger individuals (OR 5.61 [95% CI 2.62-11.98] for those age 18-40 compared with age >60); 2) those with lower household income (OR 3.35 [95% CI 1.65-6.80] with annual income <$25k compared with those with >$100k), 3) those not currently using disease modifying therapies (OR 2.32 [95% CI 1.30-4.13]), and 4) those with the greatest disability (OR 17.96; [95% CI 2.00-161.22]).

Conclusion: In this survey, 30% of PwMS reported currently using cannabis for their MS, mostly by multiple routes of administration, and most of these people report this being helpful for their MS. People who were younger, had lower household income, had progressive disease, and had more than minimal disability were more likely to use cannabis and report it was beneficial for their MS. People who were not using disease modifying therapies were also more likely to report benefit from cannabis use.


Abstract >>

DOI: 10.1016/j.msard.2021.103172


Rice, J., Hildebrand, A., Spain, R., Senders, A., Silbermann, E., Wooliscroft, L., … & Cameron, M. (2021). A Cross-Sectional Survey of Cannabis Use by People with MS in Oregon and Southwest Washington. Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders, 103172.