Mobile App Tracking Data Suggest Cannabis Relieves Symptoms in Variety of Health Conditions

A mobile app technology used to identify and track symptom relief helped measure real-time cannabis use.

Two new studies suggest that medical cannabis can provide significant therapeutic benefits across several different health symptoms, ranging from chronic pain to insomnia, with minimal negative effects.

Based on patient-reported symptom relief from a new mobile application technology called Releaf App, researchers from The University of New Mexico (UNM) collected data from the platform to measure real-time cannabis use.

According a press release, Releaf App is an incentive-free patient educational software program designed to record how individual cannabis usage sessions correspond to immediate changes in symptom intensity levels and experienced adverse effects.

“Observational studies are more appropriate than experimental research designs for measuring how patients choose to consume cannabis and the effects of those choices,” study author Jacob Miguel Vigil, PhD, associate professor at UNM Department of Psychology, said in a press release.

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The first study examined cannabis use across 27 different health conditions with symptoms that ranged from seizure disorders to depression among 2830 app users. According to the findings, users reported an average symptom reduction of approximately 4 points on a 1 to 10 scale following use of cannabis in its various product forms, from concentrations to topicals.

On average, higher pre-dosing symptom levels were associated with greater reported symptom relief. The authors also found that users treating anxiety or depression-related symptoms reported significantly more relief than users with pain symptoms.

Sixty percent of users reported experiencing negative adverse effects, which were associated with lessened, yet still significant symptom relief. Negative adverse effects were more common among patients treating a depressive symptom relative to patients treating anxiety and pain-related conditions, according to the study.

“By collecting massive amounts of patient-centered information on actual cannabis used under real-life circumstances we are able to measure why patients consume cannabis, the types of products that patients use, and the immediate and longer-term effects of such use,” Dr. Vigil added.

In the second study, the authors analyzed users’ use of raw natural cannabis flower, or “buds,” as a treatment for insomnia. Among 409 individuals with a specified condition of insomnia, the authors analyzed 1056 medical cannabis administration sessions using the Releaf App. Users recorded real-time ratings of self-perceived insomnia severity levels prior to and following consumption, experienced adverse effects, and product characteristics.

Overall, the authors observed similar degrees of effectiveness that varied according to characteristics of the flower and combustion methods, according to the study.

Increasing widespread use of cannabis for treating symptoms of various health conditions, including insomnia, underscores the importance for further medical research regarding its risk-benefit profile and effectiveness as a substitute for other substances, the authors concluded.

“In addition, if the short-term risk benefit profile of cannabis found in our studies reflects its longer-term therapeutic potential, substitution of the cannabis for traditional pharmaceuticals could reduce the risk of dangerous drug interactions and the costs associated with taking multiple medications by allowing patients to treat a constellation of comorbidities with a single treatment modality,” Dr. Vigil said.


Stith SS, Vigil JM, Brockelman F, et al. Patient-reported symptom relief following medical cannabis consumption. Frontiers in Pharmacology. 2018.

Vigil JM, Stith SS, Diviant JP, et al. Effectiveness of raw, natural medical cannabis flower for treating insomnia under naturalistic conditions. Medicines. 2018. Doi: 10.3390/medicines5030075

Innovative study shows medical cannabis effective in treating a wide range of health conditions [news release]. UNM’s website. Accessed September 11, 2018.

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