A national study of clinical discussions about cannabis use among Veteran patients prescribed opioids

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of cannabis research








And opioids; Cannabis; Cannabis documentation; Cannabis for pain; Cannabis use in Veterans


BACKGROUND: The Veterans Health Administration tracks urine drug tests (UDTs) among patients on long-term opioid therapy (LTOT) and recommends discussing the health effects of cannabis use. OBJECTIVE: To determine the occurrence of cannabis-related discussions between providers and patients on LTOT during six months following UDT positive for cannabis, and examine factors associated with documenting cannabis use. DESIGN: We identified patients prescribed LTOT with a UDT positive for cannabis in 2019. We developed a text-processing tool to extract discussions around cannabis use from their charts. SUBJECTS: Twelve thousand seventy patients were included. Chart review was conducted on a random sample of 1,946 patients. MAIN MEASURES: The presence of a cannabis term in the chart suggesting documented cannabis use or cannabis-related discussions. Content of those discussions was extracted in a subset of patients. Logistic regression was used to examine the association between patient factors, including state of residence legal status, with documentation of cannabis use. KEY RESULTS: Among the 12,070 patients, 65.8% (N = 7,948) had a cannabis term, whereas 34.1% (N = 4,122) of patients lacked a cannabis term, suggesting that no documentation of cannabis use or discussion between provider and patient took place. Among the subset of patients who had a discussion documented, 47% related to cannabis use for medical reasons, 35% related to a discussion of VA policy or legal issues, and 17% related to a discussion specific to medical risks or harm reduction strategies. In adjusted analyses, residents of states with legalized recreational cannabis were less likely to have any cannabis-related discussion compared to patients in non-legal states [OR 0.73, 95% CI 0.64-0.82]. CONCLUSIONS: One-third of LTOT patients did not have documentation of cannabis use in the chart in the 6 months following a positive UDT for cannabis. Discussions related to the medical risks of cannabis use or harm reduction strategies were uncommon.