Cannabis Use and Symptom Management

Dr. Ashare’s research interests include several aspects of cannabis use in the context of comorbid medical conditions. Patients are increasingly using cannabis to manage symptoms such as pain, anxiety, and insomnia. However, due to cannabis’ classification as a Schedule 1 substance by the United States Food and Drug Administration, the science has seriously lagged behind state cannabis laws and clinical practice.

Therefore, our research focuses on three key areas:

  • whether cannabis may help to reduce opioid use for managing pain among cancer patients

A qualitative study conducted by our colleague, Dr. Salimah Meghani, at the University of Pennsylvania suggested that patients may attempt to use cannabis to avoid taking opioids, as one patient said: “I’ll [first] go to the marijuana. If that doesn’t work, I’ll go to the harder medicines…Rather than take OxyContin and hydrocodone, I’m taking…the [marijuana] strands”.

  • evaluating perceptions and patterns of cannabis use among cancer patients

We are conducting a large survey of cancer patients at the University of Pennsylvania Abramson Cancer Center to evaluate the prevalence and patients’ perceptions of cannabis use. This study is being conducted as part of a consortium of 11 other cancer centers around the country.

We are also conducting a feasibility study to rapidly develop and refine a patient-centered mobile app, MedCanna, with standardized medical cannabis education for cancer pain and symptoms in outpatients with cancer who are on high risk opioids.

  • clinician attitudes and knowledge about medical cannabis.

In collaboration with Drs. Brooke Worster and Erin Kelly at Thomas Jefferson University, we surveyed clinicians across the state of Pennsylvania to evaluate knowledge, training, attitudes, and informational sources regarding medical cannabis.   

Selected Publications