Medical marijuana recommendations are most often written out by doctors, but a new study shows about 90 percent of doctors learn nothing about weed in medical school. The doctors who are recommending cannabis have almost no formal education on the subject, making them unprepared to prescribe medical marijuana. Even though medical marijuana is legal in nearly 30 states, doctors are not equipped with the training or knowledge to prescribe it.
How Much Do Doctors Know About Weed?
Legally doctors cannot call it a “prescription.” They lack the knowledge and training that was required for all the drugs they can legally prescribe. Furthermore, prescribing cannabis violates federal policy. Doctors can lose their federal license to prescribe drugs and be prosecuted for prescribing a Schedule I substance.
To be able to recommend cannabis in most states, you just need to be a licensed doctor and complete a course.
For example, the New York State Department of Health requires marijuana doctors to register with them and complete a four-hour course approved by the Commissioner. In other states like Michigan, it only takes one to two hours. However, not every doctor chooses to get the training and begin recommending medical marijuana, leaving them ignorant to any possible advantages it might have for their patients.
Doctors have told terminal cancer patients that their days were numbered because they weren’t aware cannabis was an alternative form of treatment. Some patients were fortunate enough to cure their terminal cancer with cannabis oil with no help from their physicians. However, many terminal cancer patients pass without ever trying cannabis oil because their doctors never received the medical marijuana education necessary to make the recommendation.
The quickest solution to that gap in doctors education is to include medical marijuana courses in medical school. In fact, Dr. Laura Jean Bierut, professor of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis says, “medical education needs to catch up to marijuana legislation.”
Medical Marijuana in Medical School
The Association of Medical Colleges database revealed that only nine percent of medical schools teach their students about medical marijuana. Curriculum deans at over a hundred medical schools administered surveys about marijuana education. Over two-thirds of graduates claimed they weren’t prepared to prescribe medical marijuana. One-quarter of graduates said that they wouldn’t even be able to answer questions on the subject.
“As a future physician, it worries me,” said Anastasia Evanoff, a third-year medical student and the first author of the study.
“We need to know how to answer questions about medical marijuana’s risks and benefits, but there is a fundamental mismatch between state laws involving marijuana and the education physicians-in-training receive at medical schools throughout the country,” Evanoff added.
The mismatch between legislation and education is evident in a survey of 258 medical residents and fellows from around the country. Nine out of 10 said they were unprepared to prescribe medical marijuana. The research was published online in the journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
Evanoff admires that doctors have a better understanding of the way opioids affect organ systems and discuss the risks and benefits with their patients. She wants medical students to be able to speak about medical marijuana in the same way.