A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also known as PNAS, found that doctors do not find cannabis use as a concerning behavior.
The 233 doctors involved in the study were presented with nine behaviors: tobacco use, depression, alcohol use, marijuana use, obesity, firearms in the house, previous abortions, marijuana use, having sex with a prostitute, and not wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle. The doctors ranked each item on a ten point scale.
Doctors ranked having sex with a prostitute and not wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle as the most concerning behaviors, whereas marijuana use was ranked as the item of least concern out of the whole group. Alcohol and tobacco usage were also ranked as a higher concerns by doctors than cannabis use.
The findings of the study are not surprising seeing as a 2013 study found that 76% of doctors are in favor of medical marijuana. The study involved doctors from 72 different countries and 56 different states and provinces from the United States. Cannabis has not caused any reported deaths or overdoses in its thousands of years of use and a study from May of this year found that consistent marijuana use causes no major health problems.
The study, which was conducted by Arizona State University, looked at the cannabis use of 1,037 New Zealanders. Cannabis was found to cause no major health problems after a lifetime of use, except for the increased prevalence of gum disease. The study found no difference in metabolism or lung function in cannabis users compared to the control group.
Many doctors think cannabis could be beneficial, but they are still aren’t recommending (doctors are not able to prescribe, they can only recommend) it regularly. Many doctors are not adequately knowledgable about cannabis, so they are hesitant to recommend it to their patients.
Even though medical cannabis has been legal in some states for twenty years, education has not caught up with the tide of legalization. Medical cannabis education is widely left out of medical schools. “Only 1 medical school out of the total of 140, University of Vermont, has a course teaching about the endocannabinoid system. Only 13% of the other 140 touch on it in various forms, though most hardly at all,” said Dr. Perry Solomon, Chief Medical Officer of HelloMD. The lack of education comes directly from the lack of access to education for doctors and medical students, which is something that needs to be changed.
Some states have set up continued education programs for doctors in their state. Specific states, like New York, have even required doctors to take some sort of state sanctioned education before being allowed to recommend medical marijuana. New York doctors have benefited greatly from the program, 80% of the doctors who have taken the program said they changed their processes in regards to marijuana based on what they learned.
Many doctors still do not have a grasp on dosage and how to properly choose between the different strains of cannabis to recommend to their patients. Many doctors feel that there is not adequate studies on medical marijuana because of the limits on research due to marijuana’s position as a schedule I substance.
Doctors also still worry about the blurred lines between legality and illegality. Since marijuana is still a federally illegal substance, many doctors find it hard to write medical marijuana recommendations for fear of repercussions down the line. As the national opinion on marijuana has moved into favor of medical usage, it is important that doctors are educated on how patients can properly use cannabis to help treat their various conditions.
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