Use and Perceptions of Opioids Versus Marijuana among Cancer Survivors

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of Cancer Education








Cancer survivors; Marijuana, patient perspectives; Opioid


Public health concerns regarding opioids and marijuana have implications for their medical use. This study examined use motives and perceived barriers in relation to opioid and marijuana use and interest in use among US adult cancer survivors. Self-administered surveys were distributed using social media to assess use motives and perceived barriers among participants living with cancer. Overall, 40.9% of cancer survivors reported current (past 30-day) use of opioids, 42.5% used marijuana, and 39.7% used both. The most common use motives for either/both drugs were to cope with pain and stress/anxiety (>70%). Highest-rated barriers to using either/both drugs were missing symptoms of worsening illness and not wanting to talk about their symptoms. Controlling for sociodemographics, binary logistic regression indicated that current opioid use was associated with reporting greater barriers to use (OR = 1.17, p =.011; Nagelkerke R-square =.934) and that current marijuana use was associated with reporting greater barriers to use (OR = 1.37, p =.003; Nagelkerke R-square =.921). Cancer survivors report various use motives and barriers to use regarding opioids and marijuana. While use motives and barriers for both drugs were similar, these constructs were differentially associated with use and interest in use across drugs. Understanding patients’ perceptions about opioids and marijuana is an essential component to effectively manage symptoms related to a cancer diagnosis and improve quality of life for cancer survivors.