A study of more than 400 healthcare professionals has revealed that most doctors lack knowledge about medical cannabis, with 65% saying they have been asked about medical marijuana as a treatment for chronic pain but were unable to answer their patients’ questions .
The quantitative research study, commissioned by the cannabis health brand Cannaceutica, examined 445 physicians treating chronic pain, including general practitioners and specialists in areas such as orthopedics, rheumatology, and sports medicine, about their knowledge of medical cannabis. Doctors participating in the study had from two to 35 years of practice and were at least a little knowledgeable about medical cannabis and at least somewhat inclined to recommend it to their patients with chronic pain, provided medical marijuana was legally available.
The vast majority of doctors asked about medical cannabis
An overwhelming majority (84%) of the healthcare providers surveyed said that their patients had requested or asked about cannabis for chronic pain, with 72% reporting that they had been asked within the previous 30 days. Dr. Daniele Piomelli, director of the Institute for the Study of Cannabis at the University of California, Irvine and a member of the UCI Institutional Review Board that approved the research, said in a press release that the study “emphasizes both the public interest in cannabis as an analgesic and the lack of reliable data and / or medical training on its proper use. “
“In 2017, a panel of experts from the National Academy of Science concluded that there was ‘substantial’ but not ‘conclusive’ evidence that cannabis and cannabinoids are effective in treating chronic pain in adults,” Piomelli continued. “Five years later, we still lack the data needed to bring this problem to life, one way or another. It’s time we filled that gap.”
The study, which has not yet been published or peer reviewed, also found that nearly two-thirds (64%) of physicians said patients themselves were their dominant source of information on cannabis, followed by the Internet (44%) and medical journals ( 40%). The study reveals a striking lack of knowledge about the therapeutic use of cannabis among healthcare professionals, most of whom receive little or no education about medical marijuana or the endocannabinoid system in medical school.
Research reveals increasing evidence and support for therapeutic use of cannabis for chronic pain. However, changes in the regulation of cannabis surpass the type of evidence that many doctors need to feel safe in recommending cannabis to their patients. The survey of health professionals showed that 81% of doctors believe that cannabis will play a role in the treatment of chronic pain in the future, but only one in four said that they would most likely recommend medical marijuana for chronic pain Today.
Challenges for doctors and patients
Mikhail Kogan, MD, medical director of the GW Center for Integrative Medicine and associate professor, George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, has treated and recommended cannabis to more than 3,000 patients, about half for chronic pain. But he says he is a notable exception, as the lack of formal education makes it difficult for doctors to recommend medical cannabis to their patients.
“We are struggling with this issue for good reason. We do not send patients to a website to learn about their medications, so we should not send a patient to a website to learn about cannabis,” Kogan wrote in an email. “reading books and research articles or talking to buddens in a dispensary for guidance, but none of these are good options. It’s not even a Band-Aid solution because self-medication can lead to unwanted side effects.”
Kogan adds that there is also too much trial and error in self-medication with cannabis, which can create complications or discontinuation of treatment due to lack of information or dosing instructions. And when he recommends medical marijuana, Kogan notes that inconsistencies in available products also cause problems for patients and providers.
“A patient could go into a pharmacy and ask for a particular strain or product that works for them and either the outpatient clinic does not have it or there are discrepancies between the batches and they cannot find the exact same product,” says Kogan.
Until the regulation of marijuana catches up with its current use, Kogan says both healthcare providers and patients will continue to face challenges with the therapeutic use of cannabis.
“Standardization in education is critical, but so is standardization when it comes to cannabis products for pain to ensure that the patient receives the same exact medication every time,” he explains.