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Injured workers are using cannabis to self-medicate, study shows


Photo: ArtistGNDphotography/iStockphoto

Toronto — Most workers who use cannabis to treat work-related injuries and illnesses do so without medical guidance or authorization, a recent study out of Canada suggests.

Researchers from the Institute for Work and Health examined data for nearly 1,200 workers in the Ontario Life After Work Injury Study. The participants, who had an injury or illness that resulted in at least one lost workday, were interviewed 18 to 36 months post-injury/illness.

Overall, 27.4% of the workers reported using cannabis in the past year. Of that group, 14.1% did so to ease symptoms stemming from a work-related condition, with the majority (67.3%) not receiving guidance on therapeutic cannabis use from a health care provider.

“Workers using cannabis for their condition were less likely to be working (58%) and more likely to have quite a bit/extreme pain interference (48.5%), psychological distress (26%) and sleep problems most/all the time (62.1%), compared with those not using cannabis … and those using cannabis for other reasons,” the researchers write.

They add that health care providers “should be aware that their patients may be using cannabis to manage physical and mental symptoms arising from a work-related condition and be prepared to speak candidly with workers about their cannabis use, including potential harms and benefits, as well as issues of workplace impairment.”

The study was published online in the journal BMJ Open.

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