Study Indicates Most Patients Don’t Think Doctors Will Understand Cannabis

Despite all the progress cannabis has made, many still feel uneasy about discussing it with their physician.
Study Indicates Most Patients Don’t Think Doctors Will Understand Cannabis

According to a recent study, most cannabis patients don’t feel comfortable disclosing to their mainstream medical doctors that they use cannabis. 

The study, which was published in the Journal of Cannabis Research and titled “Communication between healthcare providers and medical cannabis patients regarding referral and medication substitution,” was carried out by researchers at the University of Michigan Medical School. The study looked at 275 medical cannabis patients in the state and examined how they discuss cannabis with their doctors.

“People report using cannabis as a substitute for prescription medications but may be doing so without the knowledge of their primary health care providers (PCPs),” the study explained. “This lack of integration creates serious concerns, e.g., using cannabis to treat medical conditions that have established treatment options.

“Only 18 percent of participants rated their PCP’s knowledge about medical cannabis as very good or excellent and only 21 percent were very or completely confident in their PCP’s ability to integrate medical cannabis into their treatment.” As a result, most subjects (86 percent) reported obtaining their medical cannabis recommendation from a doctor specializing in cannabis rather than from their primary care provider.”

Of the 275 subjects surveyed, 86 percent of those who took part in the project said they sometimes substitute cannabis in place of other medicine.  However, while many of those who had access to medical cannabis turned to it in place of other drugs, 44 percent of those people said they did not disclose the fact that they did so to a healthcare professional. 

“Our study highlights the need for better integration between medical cannabis and mainstream healthcare, including enhancing PCP education on cannabis, the endocannabinoid system, and the benefits, risks, and harms of cannabis in relevant therapeutic contexts,” the study added. 

Cannabis And Mainstream Medicine

Overall, the study showed that cannabis patients are not comfortable disclosing that they are cannabis users when dealing with mainstream, medical professionals. As a result, there is a disconnect between the knowledge of medical professionals and those who provide care through cannabis. 

“While patients substitute cannabis for other medications, many do not disclose this substitution to their PCPs and perceptions of PCP expertise with cannabis and ability to integrate cannabis into medical care range widely,” the study concluded. “Similarly, although many medical cannabis patients tell their PCP about their use of medical cannabis, their license was typically authorized by an outside physician who had no current role in the patient’s healthcare. Our results show the poor integration between medical cannabis and mainstream healthcare, suggesting a need for improved physician education around appropriate cannabis use.”

This is not the first survey that has revealed a communications issue when it comes to disclosing cannabis medications. Other studies have reported that most health professionals do not feel they have enough information to council their patients on legal cannabis. 

While many turn to legal cannabis for relief, they still feel stigmatized enough not to share that fact with medical professionals. As legal cannabis continues to spread, there needs to be more awareness about the plant from mainstream, healthcare professionals. 

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