Consumer Perspectives on and Utilization of Medical Cannabis to Treat Dermatologic Conditions

January 2022 | Volume 21 | Issue 1 | 31 | Copyright © January 2022


Published online December 28, 2021

Samuel Yeroushalmi BSa, Daniel Rollan Nemirovsky BSa, Mira Mamlouk BAa, Dovid Aharon Feldman BSb, Kamaria Nelson MDa, Andrew Sparks MSa, Adam Freidman MDa

aThe George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Washington, DC
bThe University of Maryland, College Park, MD

Abstract
Background: Access to medical cannabis products (MCPs) has rapidly increased though literature on consumer behaviors and attitudes with regards to dermatologic use is limited.
Objective: We sought to address the gap of knowledge regarding consumer utilization and perspectives surrounding MCPs for dermatologic indications.
Methods: A survey was emailed via SurveyMonkey’s platform to adult users of their rewards panel asking about usage patterns and beliefs regarding MCP use to treat dermatologic conditions.
Results: 504 of 700 survey invitations sent out were completed (72% response rate). 17.6% of respondents used an over-the-counter (OTC) cannabis product without dermatologist recommendation to treat a skin condition [most common indications: acne (28.4%) and psoriasis (26.1%)]. Of those who had seen a dermatologist, 15.3% used an OTC product [most common indications: psoriasis (32%) and rosacea (30%)] and 7.8% used an MCP which required a Department of Health-approved card per their dermatologist’s recommendations [most common indications: acne (68%) and psoriasis (28%)]. 11.8% of respondents were not comfortable seeing a dermatologist who recommended MCPs.
Limitations: Limitations include small sample size as well as selection bias.
Conclusion: Consumers are interested in and are using MCPs for dermatologic indications, most commonly for inflammatory skin disorders. Targeted education for dermatologists is recommended.

J Drugs Dermatol. 2022;21(1):31-36. doi:10.36849/JDD.6540

INTRODUCTION

The continuing and widespread legalization of medical cannabis products (MCPs), which we define here as cannabis or cannabis-derived products which contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and/or cannabidiol (CBD), has led to unparalleled access for patients/consumers who are interested in its potential therapeutic benefits.1 The field of dermatology is no exception with regards to ongoing research in medical cannabis and its implications in treating inflammatory and neoplastic skin diseases. For example, medical cannabinoids have been approved in several states for treating several dermatologic conditions such as cutaneous lupus, nail-patella syndrome, neurofibromatosis, and psoriasis.2

There are many misconceptions among consumers about MCP use in dermatology, however, likely due to unsubstantiated claims about MCP’s health benefits.3 Concerningly, a 2019 study found that 80% of Canadian medical marijuana dispensaries listed indications for dermatologic MCPs that were not medically proven.4 The authors also found that generalized, catch-all statements such as cannabis being an “immune system aid” were increasingly being used to attract a wide range of consumers. Specific and non-evidence-based claims such as MCPs having properties that were anti-aging, and as a treatment for hypersensitivity reactions were also used.4

Little data exists, however, on patient and consumer interests in MCPs for dermatologic indications. Thus, we aimed to investigate consumers’ patterns of use and beliefs as well as their fund of knowledge regarding medical cannabinoids via a multiple-choice survey. We also elucidated whether patients believe over the counter therapies have the same therapeutic value as physician referred MCPs.

MATERIALS AND METHODS

A survey was disseminated, and data was collected securely and anonymously through the online platform, SurveyMonkey, to 700 individuals aged 18 years and older through SurveyMonkey’s rewards panel. The online platform awards users credits that they can redeem for gift cards of small monetary value (typically up to $1). Once the link was received, participants had the option of opting out of the study by declining to fill out the survey or to be included in the study by completing the questionnaire.