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Survey Finds High Support for Medical Cannabis for Skin Conditions — and Low Use

Posted on March 11, 2022
Medically reviewed by
Ariel D. Teitel, M.D., M.B.A.
Article written by
Emily Wagner, M.S.

  • A nationwide survey of more than 500 people found broad support for the use of medical cannabis products to manage skin conditions such as psoriasis.
  • Roughly 89 percent of people surveyed support using medical cannabis products, and many use over-the-counter or prescribed medications.
  • Nearly 18 percent of survey respondents said they used a medical cannabis product without the recommendation of their dermatologist.

A nationwide survey found that 89 percent of all consumers support the use of medical cannabis products (MCPs) in general. Around 55 percent said they approved of using these products to treat skin conditions such as psoriasis, while under 7 percent said they disapproved.

Though interest in the use of MCPs for treating skin conditions is high, study authors cautioned that research on their effectiveness is limited. Also, MCPs aren’t regulated like other health products, so people need to be cautious if they choose to try them.

“MCPs, which are cannabis or cannabis-derived products that contain tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and/or cannabidiol, known as CBD, are more available now than they ever have been,” said lead study author Samuel Yeroushalmi in an interview. “However, data supporting use and information regarding product quality assurance is limited, particularly when it comes to dermatologic conditions.”

The survey was part of a study conducted by researchers from George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, in collaboration with the University of Maryland. The study appeared in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology.

Cannabis Products Can Be Used To Treat Skin Conditions

Researchers have studied how cannabis products can be used in treating psoriasis and other skin conditions. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, products such as CBD have shown potential for treating psoriatic diseases. Unlike THC, CBD does not produce the high associated with cannabis.

CBD and other active ingredients from the cannabis plant interact with receptors in the body responsible for mediating pain, inflammation, and itchiness. This makes these compounds potentially beneficial for treating inflammatory skin diseases, such as psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

According to the Sleep Foundation, some preliminary research has found CBD can help with certain sleep disorders, including insomnia. A recent study found that people living with psoriasis often don’t get enough sleep, due to anxiety, depression, and itchiness related to the condition.

Learn more about CBD oil and psoriasis.

73% Would Try an MCP With a Dermatologist’s Recommendation

For the study, the authors surveyed more than 500 people on their thoughts about MCPs. Overall, almost 89 percent of people support MCPs in general. Nearly 73 percent said they’d be willing to try an MCP for a skin condition if a dermatologist recommended one.

Although interest in and support for MCPs was high, reported usage was low. In total, 17.6 percent of people surveyed reported using an over-the-counter (OTC) MCP with a recommendation from a dermatologist — most commonly for psoriasis and acne.

Roughly two-thirds of the survey respondents had seen a dermatologist before. Among those people, 20 percent said their dermatologist had recommended an OTC MCP — most commonly for psoriasis (32 percent), acne (30 percent), and rosacea (30 percent).

Most respondents said they used mainly OTC cannabis products as opposed to those that require approval from the U.S. Department of Health. Only 8 percent of respondents reported using an MCP that required approval.

Skepticism, Legal Concerns Prevent Some From Trying MCPs

Notably, researchers found several reasons some respondents had not tried MCPs — even when recommended by a dermatologist — including:

  • Limited understanding about the products
  • Skepticism about their effectiveness
  • Costs
  • Legal obstacles

Researchers emphasized the importance of educating people about the potential benefits, drawbacks, and uncertainties of initiating treatment with MCPs. “Given the interest in medical cannabis for dermatologic use as shown by this study, it is important for dermatologists to stay up to date with the scientific and legal landscapes in order to best serve patient needs,” the researchers concluded. “It is important to understand and inform patients who may seek out cannabis products that recognized, evidence-based treatments currently remain the standard of care, though MCPs may be a suitable option for patients who are interested in alternative therapies.”

Dr. Adam Friedman, professor and chair of the Department of Dermatology at George Washington University, expressed optimism about the use of MCPs for treating conditions such as psoriasis. “Consumers and patients are already using MCPs to treat inflammatory skin conditions, such as acne, rosacea, atopic dermatitis, and psoriasis, even without guidance from a dermatologist. The future should be bright for MCPs; we just need to show and disseminate the science.”

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Ariel D. Teitel, M.D., M.B.A. is the clinical associate professor of medicine at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Emily Wagner, M.S. holds a Master of Science in biomedical sciences with a focus in pharmacology. She is passionate about immunology, cancer biology, and molecular biology. Learn more about her here.

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