Meacham MC, Nobles AL, Tompkins DA, Thrul J (2022) “I got a bunch of weed to help me through the withdrawals”: Naturalistic cannabis use reported in online opioid and opioid recovery community discussion forums. PLoS ONE 17(2): e0263583. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0263583
This study investigated cannabis-related posts in two online communities on the Reddit platform to compare naturalistic cannabis use by people actively using opioids versus people in recovery from opioid misuse. Researchers extracted all posts mentioning keywords related to cannabis from an opioid use subreddit and opioid recovery subreddit on Reddit from December 2015 to August 2019. Cannabis-related posts were analyzed using qualitative content analysis to identify the most frequently used phrases and then compared between the two subreddits. Cannabis-related posts were twice as prevalent in the recovery subreddit (N=908, 5% of posts) than the active opioid use subreddit (N=4224, 2.6% of posts). The most frequent phrases in the recovery subreddit referred to time without opioid use and using cannabis as treatment. The opioid use subreddit most frequently referred to concurrent use of cannabis and opioids. The primary reason for cannabis use among persons in recovery was to manage opioid withdrawal symptoms and among active opioid users to achieve the “high” in conjunction with opioids. This study of naturalistic cannabis use reported on an online community platform provides insight into the motivation behind cannabis use among people who actively or previously used opioids. Findings have implications for cannabis policy and its potential impact on opioid use in the context of unmet treatment needs for opioid use disorder. Future research is needed to understand the role of cannabis for treating opioid withdrawal symptoms.