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Real world patterns of cannabis use for health concerns are highly variable and rarely overseen by a physician. Pragmatic effectiveness studies with electronic daily diaries that capture person-specific patterns of cannabis use and health symptoms may help clarify risks and benefits.
As part of a larger, randomized trial (NCT03224468), adults (N = 181) seeking cannabis for insomnia, pain, or anxiety or depressive symptoms were randomized to obtain a medical cannabis card immediately (MCC) or a waitlist control (WLC) and completed 12-weeks of daily web-based surveys on cannabis use and sleep, pain, and depressive symptoms.
Completion rates of daily surveys were moderate to high (median completed: 72 out of 90 days). Daily reports of cannabis use were consistent with monthly interview assessments and urinalysis. The MCC group increased cannabis use frequency in the 12 weeks following randomization, while WLC did not. Among the MCC group, self-reported sleep quality was significantly higher on cannabis use days, compared to nonuse days. The MCC group displayed long-term sleep improvements, consistent with increasing cannabis frequency. No improvements were found for pain or depressive symptoms.
Cannabis use is associated with same day improvements in self-reported sleep quality, but not pain or depressive symptoms, although sleep improvements occurred in the context of increased frequency of cannabis use, raising the risk for cannabis use disorder. Daily web-based assessments of cannabis appear valid and feasible in adults seeking cannabis for health concerns, providing a flexible, complementary method for future real-world effectiveness studies with expanded and objective measures.