Marijuana has currently been legalized for medicinal purposes in 23 U.S. states where it is used to treat a bevy of conditions, including epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, and certain types of cancer. A recent study conducted by the Public Health Initiative in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that over 90 percent of medical marijuana users in California said it helps them alleviate symptoms and treat the condition it was prescribed for.

"Our study contradicts commonly held beliefs that medical marijuana is being overused by healthy individuals," said the authors. "The most common reasons for use include medical conditions for which mainstream treatments may not exist, such as for migraines, or may not be effective, including for chronic pain and cancer."

The research team gathered their data using the California Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System 2012, which included 7,525 adults in California. Overall, five percent of adults who answered a telephone survey said they were prescribed medical marijuana, 92 percent of which said it helped “alleviate symptoms or treat a serious medical condition.” Although white adults between the ages of 18 and 24 were the most common medical marijuana users, use among all racial/ethnic and age backgrounds ranged from two percent to nine percent.

“Our study's results lend support to the idea that medical marijuana is used equally by many groups of people and is not exclusively used by any one specific group,” the authors concluded. “As more states approve marijuana use for medical purposes, it is important to track medical marijuana use as a health-related behavior and risk factor.”

A similar study, dubbed the Cannabis Care Study, gathered information from 130 medical marijuana users at seven facilities in the San Francisco Bay Area regarding personal health practices, health results, use of service, and satisfaction with medical marijuana facilities. Patients were “significantly” more satisfied with medical marijuana use than the overall health care system. Around half said they had substituted cannabis with alcohol and other illegal drugs, while 74 percent of the sample said they substituted it for prescription drugs.

Source: Ewing D, Induni M, Ryan-Ibarra S. Prevalence of medical marijuana use in California, 2012. Drug Alcohol Rev. 2014.