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A survey study of marijuana use for pain management during first-trimester medical abortion

      Objectives: Pain during medical abortion is sometimes severe, and current approaches for management may be inadequate. Some women may use marijuana in addition to or in lieu of pain medications prescribed for the abortion. We surveyed women who underwent first-trimester mifepristone–misoprostol medical abortion to investigate their methods of managing pain during the procedure, including marijuana use. We used the data to determine the prevalence, patterns and perceived effectiveness of marijuana use for pain control in medical abortion.
      Methods: We enrolled 384 women in states where marijuana is legal for medicinal or recreational purposes on the day they returned to the clinic for medical abortion follow-up. After providing informed consent, women completed a short anonymous Internet-based survey.
      Results: Preliminary analysis (n=226) revealed that women utilized multiple strategies to manage pain during medical abortion, and 19% reported marijuana use. All of those women (43/43) found it to be at least somewhat effective at relieving pain and cramps. About half used marijuana after ingesting mifepristone, and half used it within 24 h after administering the misoprostol. The majority (75%) smoked the marijuana, and almost all would use it again if they were to have another abortion.
      Conclusions: Initial findings suggest that a sizable proportion of women in states with progressive marijuana policies use marijuana during first-trimester medical abortion and find it helpful in managing pain. Further research is needed to investigate the clinical effectiveness of marijuana in relieving pain in this population.