As studies emerge addressing the positive medicinal effects of cannabis for eligible patients, it’s difficult to believe some physicians continue to hold onto outdated notions about the drug.
Although there does seem to be a shift in doctors’ attitude towards marijuana in recent years, there still is a lot of ignorance and stigma surrounding it. However no matter the forces working against it, physician outreach is still vital for cannabis education.
Having worked in a few cannabis clinics over the past few years, I understand the value of educating clinicians as many of them do not know of the benefits of the drug or simply believe there is not enough evidence to support treatment. I have had countless patients who said they were unable to get a physician prescription or referral because their doctor did not believe in cannabis treatment. This outlook is unfortunately and unknowingly propagated by the colleges’ failure to support cannabis education or provide accreditation to its members.
Colleges cite limited research and consistent evidence of adverse effects including paranoia, dizziness, psychosis, increased heart rate, and hallucinations as to why it cautions it’s physicians on endorsing cannabis as treatment. While adverse reactions do exist (as with any drug), the U.S. federal ban on marijuana makes it hard for researchers to test on human subjects. Very little research, for example, exists on edibles as a treatment over inhalation. However, while there hasn’t been much research coming out, physicians cannot deny the thousands of patients who report positive effects from the drug. In Canada alone, there are over 200,000 patients registered who use cannabis for medicinal purposes.
Moreover, with the escalating opioid crisis gripping the nation, cannabis has been a key component used to help patients wean off of high doses of painkillers and sleeping pills.
Information is key for physician outreach in cannabis education.
I believe it is vital to ensure that physicians receive current, reliable, and accurate information in determining the aptness of medical cannabis in the treatment of their patients. Physician outreach is extremely crucial to further cannabis education and to make it accessible for patients who require its therapeutic benefits. Without this, there may be a rise of patients who need physician’s help gravitating towards self-medication, especially with nationwide legalization looming in the summer.
With physician outreach, doctors are able to clear any questions they may have regarding cannabis by directly asking outreach coordinators from various clinics and LPs within the industry. These coordinators show practitioners studies that examine the effects of cannabis in alleviating specific symptoms and provide physicians with actual patient case studies so physicians can have explicit evidence of marijuana relieving symptoms.
Though I did receive some pushback against the issue, most of the doctors I spoke with were very receptive. They were engaged and eager to learn about cannabis. Since most of them already knew of the mechanism of action of the drug relating to the endocannabinoid system, they were mostly interested in learning about dosing, characteristics of the different strains, and the general legal parameters surrounding the drug.
Representatives will use tools like powerpoint and bring surveys to further illustrate their point on marijuana being a viable source of treatment. As a previous clinic representative myself, I ensured that I left a positive impression on the physicians regarding marijuana. It was crucial for me to know that doctors were clear on the need for marijuana advocacy from the medical and pharmaceutical world.
It is extremely vital for physicians and medical cannabis advocates to establish an open and trusting relationship with one another. Clear communication lines need to be established by both parties. It is the only way to ensure proper education and recognition towards a drug that has been marginalized for the better part of this century, it’s remedies remaining untapped.