Study Examines Risk of Cannabis Use Disorder for Medical and Nonmedical Cannabis Users Washington State

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A recent study sought to examine the occurrence of cannabis use disorder in patients and recreational users, specifically in a state with legal cannabis access.

In study published August 29th in the journal JAMA Network Open, researchers examined the reasons for cannabis use, both medically and recreationally, and how common cannabis use disorder (CUD) is in the state of Washington (1). Researchers with the University of Washington examined the results of surveys from 1463 adult patients conducted in 2019 at a large health system in Washington state, where cannabis has been legal for recreational purposes since 2012 and medical purposes since 1998 (1).

Participants were asked about cannabis use with the past 30 days and past-year use, reasons for use, and method of ingestion or application (1).


“In this cross-sectional study of primary care patients in a state with legal recreational cannabis use, CUD was common among patients who used cannabis, with 21% having CUD and 6% having moderate to severe CUD,” stated the Discussion section of the study (1). “Patients who used cannabis for medical reasons only were mostly older and likely to use applied products. Patients who reported any nonmedical use were at greatest risk of moderate to severe CUD (7.2% to 7.5%). While the prevalence of moderate to severe CUD was lowest among patients who reported medical use only (1.3%), 13.4% met criteria for mild, moderate, or severe CUD.”

“The main take home message of our study is that cannabis use disorder is common among primary care patients in a state with legal cannabis use,” said Gwen Lapham, PhD, MPH, MSW(2).

Researchers concluded that the results of their study highlighted the importance of assessing CUD and cannabis use with patients in a medical setting (1).

Other studies from around the world–including in Australia and England–have also identified connections between medical cannabis use and the risk of developing CUD (3).


  1. Lapham, G. T.; Matson, T. E.; Bobb, J. F.; Luce, C.; Oliver, M. M.; Hamilton, L. K.; Bradley, K. A. Prevalence of Cannabis Use Disorder and Reasons for Use among Adults in a US State Where Recreational Cannabis Use Is Legal. JAMA Network Open 2023, 6 (8).
  2. LaMotte, S. Cannabis use disorder is common in one state where marijuana is legal (accessed Aug 31, 2023).
  3. Bear-McGuinness, L. Medical cannabis patients at lower risk of developing cannabis use disorder, study finds (accessed Aug 31, 2023).