Washington State Health Care Provider Survey: Who’s Got the Dank?

A recent survey amongst doctors, pharmacists and other health care providers in Washington State found that three-fourths are in favor of rescheduling cannabis and say that educational institutions need to start teaching more about medical cannabis. While most are in favor of medical cannabis, a major limitation they recognize is “limited clinician knowledge of available products and where to get them.”

The survey assessed almost 500 health care providers on their knowledge of the endocannabinoid system, cannabinoid-based medicines and their attitudes about medical cannabis. Only a little over a quarter of them had ever issued authorizations for medical cannabis, and three fourths of these were for intractable pain due to cancer, multiple sclerosis, anorexia, fibromyalgia and Crohn’s disease. 66% of clinicians who had written recommendations for medical cannabis said they felt comfortable doing so, while only 6.5% of those who had never written one expressed the same feelings, unsurprisingly.

When asked what would make them more comfortable prescribing medical cannabis, the most frequent responses were “education programs for health care providers,” “more clinical data,” more research proving effectiveness,” “algorithms for recommending medical cannabis,” “endorsed clinical guidelines,” and “change in cannabis federal legal status.”

In general, knowledge on the endocannabinoid system and existing FDA-approved cannabinoid medications was low. Health care providers that had ever issued a recommendation had higher knowledge of the endocannabinoid system, and pharmacists (not eligible to prescribe cannabis) had a higher knowledge of FDA-approved cannabinoid drugs (such as Marinol). 77- 97% of respondents agreed that medical cannabis should be part of medical education.

Exactly 73.7% of respondents agreed that, “medical cannabis can help people who have chronic debilitating conditions” and 59.3% also agreed that, “there are significant physical health benefits of using medical cannabis as recommended by a health care provider.” Highlighting their generalized lack of knowledge regarding cannabis, 61.6% believed “cannabis can be addictive” and 45.2% said, “using medical cannabis can result in serious mental health risks, even when used as recommended by a health care professional.”

Surprisingly, most surveyed clinicians have been getting their knowledge on medical cannabis through informal sources like the media, patients and other clinicians. As you can see from all the results of this survey, there is a serious lack of knowledge about cannabis in the medical community. It’s not out of laziness or ignorance that doctors don’t know about this new/old substance; educational institutions need to start compiling all the existent data on medical cannabis so far, and put it in a coherent form so that medical professionals can rely on something to prescribe this important and much needed drug. Medical cannabis has been legal in Washington State since 1998, it’s high time for doctors to have access to the proper information required to prescribe this.

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