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Perceived risks and benefits and frequency of cannabis use among people with HIV in different legal environments.

OBJECTIVES: We sought to describe the prevalence of and motivation for cannabis use and whether legalization of cannabis impacts the frequency and perceived risks and benefits of use in people living with HIV (PWH).

METHODS: The study was based at two HIV clinics located in Cleveland, Ohio, and Aurora, Colorado. Participants responded to a 45-question survey and responses were summarized in aggregate and stratified by frequency of cannabis use and site.

RESULTS: 397 participants completed the survey. The frequency of use was not different between the sites. Daily cannabis users compared to yearly or never users identified the benefits of cannabis as relief from stress, anxiety, or depression, improved sleep, improved creativity, focus or concentration, and increased energy. The benefits of pain management, improved appetite and helping to decrease or stop other medications were selected at similar rates regardless of frequency of use. Daily users were less likely to identify treatment of disease as a benefit and legal problems, addiction to cannabis, impaired memory, increased use of other drugs, personal or relationship problems, decrease in intelligence, new or worsening health problems, and getting high as risks of use as compared to yearly or never users. Compared to participants in Ohio, Coloradoans were more likely to identify cannabis benefits as decreasing/stopping other medications and getting high, and less likely to identify legal problems and addiction as risks.

CONCLUSIONS: Legalization of cannabis did not affect the frequency of cannabis use in PWH. Daily cannabis users are more likely to identify benefits and less likely to identify risks of use compared to yearly or never users. A better understanding of the potential benefits and risks of cannabis use can help guide safer use of cannabis in PWH and allow physicians to provide better counseling on risk reduction.

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