Cannabis use a growing concern of employers

Nicole P. Bowles, Ph.D.

Cannabis (marijuana) use is on the rise. Twenty-nine US States have legalized medical cannabis and 7 (including Oregon) have approved recreational use. Thus, cannabis use in the workforce is a growing concern of the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences, and Nicole P. Bowles, Ph.D., who works in the research group of Steven A. Shea, Ph.D., wants to better understand this issue.

Despite decreased stigma and touted health benefits, including improved sleep and reduced pain, recent data suggest that use of cannabis or cannabis components result in no significant reduction in disease symptoms. On the other hand, some evidence demonstrates high levels of cannabis use can increase the risk of psychoses, among other risks. As a result, cannabis remains a schedule one drug under the Federal Controlled Substances Act (i.e., a substance considered to be highly addictive and without medical benefit). However, many clinical studies may fail to show a reduction in symptoms because they do not consider the method of ingestion of cannabis and the concentrations of its varied active components. Thus, we need a clearer understanding of how and why people consume cannabis, including edible products, vape pens and the traditional smoked cannabis.

Dr. Bowles has developed an online survey of people who use cannabis for their sleep problems to document their preferences for cannabis species, concentration, time of use and route of ingestion. “We should be evaluating how users select a particular strain and concentration for their treatment” says Dr. Bowles. “Users are becoming increasingly knowledgeable in this quickly evolving field.” Nicole aims to see where consumers obtain this knowledge, how they use it, and if cannabis is subjectively improving their sleep.

Beyond the known negative psychoactive effects, occupational health professionals remain concerned over possible workplace impairment issues related to the use of cannabis. Dr. Bowles’s survey also seeks to determine how the time and method of ingestion impacts daytime sleepiness. She hopes that her findings will be used towards future education of both users and employers to reduce injuries in the workplace.

Dr. Bowles is supported by a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship.