Self-reported use of cannabis for medical purposes: results of the general population survey
For some years, a major political and civil society debate on the legalization of cannabis use has been taking place in Slovenia. This has an important impact on the perception about the healing effects of the cannabis. Due to scientific evidence, medical use of cannabis has been legalized in 2016 and supplemented in 2017. Before and after legalization, many cannabis preparations have been appearing in the legal and illegal market that promoted health effects of the substance. Data for Slovenia shows that regarding illicit drugs, cannabis has the highest lifetime prevalence in the general population; therefore, relatively high lifetime prevalence of medical use of cannabis is expected.
General population surveys (GPS) on drug use aim to obtain comparable and reliable information on the consumption of different drugs in the general population. In Slovenia, the second GPS on drug use was carried out in 2018 with aim to get information on the use of tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs, and on gaming and gambling at the national level. Furthermore, in 2018 survey questionnaire also a set of questions on the use of cannabis for medical purposes was included; question on lifetime prevalence of cannabis or cannabis preparation use for medical purposes, question on where the substance/preparation was obtained, question about the condition for which the substance/preparation was used for, and an opinion question on the legalization of cannabis use for non-medical purpose. The target population of the survey were inhabitants of Slovenia aged 15 to 64 years living in private households. Over 9.000 people completed the questionnaire; the response rate was 62 %.
According to preliminary results, approx. 8% of inhabitants of Slovenia aged 15 to 64 years have already used cannabis for medical purposes and approx. 15% of those who have not used it yet are planning to use it in the future. The main medical conditions for which cannabis was used for were insomnia, loss of appetite/nausea, cancer and psoriasis. At the conference, results will be presented in detail.
The legalization of medical cannabis use is posing a set of questions on implications for different domains like legislation, public health etc. Furthermore, there is a question regarding implications on perception of cannabis as a medicine and not as an illicit drug. The questions on the use of cannabis for medical purposes that were included in the GPS for the first time are therefore very valuable, since they provide insight in the extent and in some characteristics of medical cannabis use among Slovene population. The results can serve as a basis for different domains to plan effective measures and policies. They could also be beneficial for broader understanding of this important and complex issue, which is currently a major topic in public health, legislative, law enforcement, civil society and political arena in Slovenia.