Feeling High May Be an Unavoidable Aspect of Medical Cannabis, Study Suggests
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Medical cannabis patients who report getting high are more likely to feel greater symptom relief, according to a new study.
Published in Frontiers in Pharmacology, the study analyzed the self-reported symptom data of 1,882 medical cannabis patients. The researchers found that feeling high was associated with a 7.7% decrease in overall symptom severity.
However, these particularly high patients were also more likely (14.4% more likely) to report negative side effects, such as “dry mouth,” “red eyes,” and feeling “thirsty.”
In high spirits
To better understand the effects of feeling high, researchers from the University of New Mexico looked through pre-recorded data on the Releaf App, an app for recording the effects of cannabis use. Three employees of MoreBetter, Ltd., the company that created the Releaf App, were also involved in the research.
In total, the 1,882 app users reported feeling high during 50% of their sessions. The average THC potency of their chosen cannabis products was 18.05% while the average CBD level was 5.32%. The most commonly treated symptom was pain (32%), followed by anxiety (27%), depression (9%), fatigue (5%), and insomnia (5%). The data was inputted between 2016 and 2021.
After diving deeper into the data, the research team found that, compared to reported other effects, feeling high had the highest association with the side effects “clumsy,” “confused,” “dizzy,” “foggy,” and “paranoid,” as well as euphoria effects like “happy,” “grateful,” “great,” and “optimistic.”
Feeling high was also associated with 0.317 greater symptom relief (within the 0 to 10 Releaf scale) when compared to the relief of app users who didn't report feeling high.
In the researchers most conservative model – which accounted for covariates such as consumption method – sessions in which patients reported feeling high had symptom reductions of −0.295 points, on average, equivalent to a 7.7% improvement in symptom relief, relative to the average symptom relief of −3.82.
Predictably, THC was strongly associated with reports of feeling high. However, once the patient was high, THC was no longer predictive of increased symptom relief, although it remained predictive of increased negative side effects.
The researchers say their results complicate the common belief that the experience of feeling high is, medically, a negative one. Instead, they say that feeling high may be a fundamental factor for effective cannabis-based treatment for some patients, perhaps even more relevant than THC potency in determining symptom relief.
“Typically, feeling ‘high’ is assumed to be the goal of recreational use, but a limitation to cannabis’ therapeutic potential,” senior author of the paper and associate professor of psychology at the University of New Mexico, Jacob Vigil, said in a statement.
“In this paper, we test the validity of this assumption and find that feeling ‘high’ may be an unavoidable component of using cannabis medicinally.”