Medical cannabis and stigma: A qualitative study with patients living with chronic pain

Amany Hulaihel, Or Gliksberg, Daniel Feingold, Silviu Brill, Ben H. Amit, Shaul Lev-ran, Sharon R. Sznitman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aims and Objectives: To explore the ways in which stigma is experienced, and what strategies are used to manage stigma among patients using medical cannabis to ease suffering from chronic pain. Background: Various jurisdictions have legalised medical cannabis in recent decades. Despite increasing prevalence and more liberal attitudes towards medical cannabis, it is possible that patients who use medical cannabis experience stigma. Design: A phenomenological qualitative study. Methods: Fifteen patients living with chronic pain and licensed by the Israeli Ministry of Health to use medical cannabis to treat pain symptoms for at least 1 year participated in semi-structured interviews. Transcribed data were analysed using thematic analysis to identify themes related to stigma. The manuscript is in correspondence to SRQR EQUATOR checklist. Results: Expressions of stigma were more related to ‘felt’ than ‘enacted’ stigma. Stigma related to decisions to delay onset of medical cannabis treatment and the ways in which participants managed medical cannabis use during their everyday lives. Participants dissociated themselves from recreational cannabis users, by presenting themselves as responsible normative individuals and engaging in a form of normalisation known as ‘normification’, emphasising their own discrete and controlled medical cannabis use and cannabis' benefits. Conclusions: Patients experienced ‘felt’ stigma which had consequences for their self-presentations and medical cannabis use. This suggests that medical cannabis is not normalised in Israel and interventions may be needed to handle stigma related to medical cannabis. Relevance to clinical practice: The findings emphasise the effects of ‘felt’ stigma on patients. Aiming to increase the effectiveness of medical cannabis treatment and reducing harms, we suggest that particular focus should be placed on managing stigma at the intrapersonal level. In addition, there may be a need to address stigma at the societal level including social interactions with friends, family and medical personnel.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1103-1114
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Clinical Nursing
Issue number7-8
StatePublished - Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Journal of Clinical Nursing published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • medical cannabis
  • normification
  • othering
  • patients living with chronic pain
  • qualitative research
  • stigma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Nursing


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