More than 840 of 1,634 endometriosis sufferers took cannabis during the early weeks of Covid, with half of those consuming it for the first time, a survey has found.

Data from the NICM Health Research Institute revealed heightened anxiety and stress, a fear of increased symptoms and a lack of access to regular medical care due to Covid, were behind the trends.

The global study found that of 1,634 responses received by researchers — including 306 from Australia and 265 from New Zealand — 846 (51%) had taken cannabis in the preceding 12 weeks, with 455 of those (54%) using it for the first time.

The management of symptoms alone was the main reason for turning to cannabis for most (55%), while only 3% consumed the drug for recreational reasons only. The remainder (42%) said they had used it for both.

The authors, which include Justin Sinclair and Mike Armour from NICM, said the results added weight to existing data.

They suggested the reduction of medical care during Covid, including the postponement of procedures and cancelled appointments, had driven more women to cannabis.

“Pre-pandemic there was already evidence supporting a worldwide increased adoption of self-management measures for control of endometriosis symptoms,” they wrote.

“Reduced access to regular healthcare and indefinitely delayed surgical treatment resulted in emotional distress and inconsistent endometriosis treatments leading to increased numbers of women turning to self-management as a coping strategy.

“Cannabis is one of the self-management measures used by women… with patient-reported efficacy in symptomatic relief.”

The survey also asked cannabis users to compare their habits before and during Covid. Of the 776 who did so, 57% said their usage increased, with 32% reporting no change.

Just under a quarter said their methods of consumption had changed, with 40% of those inhaling less, a similar number taking more edibles, and 25% turning more to oil.  

Almost half cited concerns for their respiratory health for reducing inhaled forms of cannabis.

Elsewhere in the report, participants living in countries that had legal or medical pathways were more likely to consult their doctor about cannabis use.

Common concerns for failing to discuss cannabis with medical practitioners was the legal status of the drug (30%) and concerns about their doctor’s attitude towards cannabis.

The survey backs up a recent study which suggested cannabis could be helpful in reducing pain associated with endometriosis.

Steve has reported for a number of consumer and B2B titles over a journalism career spanning more than three decades. He is a regulator contributor to health journal, The Medical Republic, writing on...