Use of cannabis and opioids for chronic pain by older adults: Distinguishing clinical and contextual influences

Julie Bobitt, Hyojung Kang, James Alton Croker, Laura Quintero Silva, Brian Kaskie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction and Aims: Chronic pain is one of the most common health-related conditions experienced by Americans over the age of 65. In this study, we examine the intersection between pain, opioids and cannabis use among older adults in Colorado and Illinois and examine how medical needs and other variables associated with a persons' background and attitudes influence choices concerning the use of opioids and cannabis to treat pain. Design and Methods: Data were collected via a survey about cannabis and opioids use, and questions related to individual need factors (e.g. pain, quality of life) and contextual factors (e.g. sex, finances, personal attitudes, interaction with physicians) were included in this study. We built a logistic regression model to evaluate factors associated with drug use and a multinomial regression model to understand factors that influence drug choices between cannabis and opioids. Results: A total of 436 individuals completed the survey; 62 used opioids only, 71 cannabis only and 72 used both. When comparing drug users to non-drug users, pain was significantly associated with using cannabis and/or opioids when controlling for other covariates. However, when we compared cannabis users to opioid users, pain was no longer a determining factor. Instead, other contextual factors such as sex, personal beliefs and physician attitudes influenced an individual's choice between cannabis or opioids. Discussion and Conclusions: This study showed that contextual factors appear to have more influence on an individual's decision to use cannabis as an alternative to opioids than individual need or characteristics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)753-762
Number of pages10
JournalDrug and Alcohol Review
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 2020


  • aging
  • cannabis
  • chronic pain
  • opioid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health(social science)


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