As a medical professional, do you feel like you know enough about cannabis to address it with your patients? If not, you’re not alone. Countless physicians share this common problem. Patients are asking questions but their physicians don't feel confident about answering them. In a 2021 study, 84% of healthcare providers have been asked about cannabis by patients (1).
So why are doctors limited in their knowledge of cannabis?
- Lack of education in medical school. Most medical schools do not provide any formal education on cannabis, or the endocannabinoid system, which is the network of receptors and signaling molecules in the body that interact with cannabis compounds. Unfortunately, this puts the onus on physicians to educate themselves on the subject.
- Federal prohibition. Cannabis is still classified as a Schedule I drug under federal law, which means that it has a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use. This makes it difficult for researchers to study cannabis and for doctors to learn about its potential therapeutic benefits.
- Public stigma. There is still a lot of stigma surrounding cannabis use, both among patients and healthcare professionals. This can make it difficult for patients to talk to their doctors about cannabis, and for doctors to feel comfortable recommending it.
What can we do to address the inexperience of physicians and ensure best practices around medical cannabis?
- Medical schools should include education on cannabis and the endocannabinoid system in their curriculum. This will help to ensure that future doctors have the knowledge they need to talk to their patients about cannabis and to make informed decisions about whether or not to recommend it.
- The federal government should reschedule cannabis so that it can be more easily researched and studied. This would help to generate more evidence about the potential therapeutic benefits of cannabis and would make it easier for doctors to learn about its use. This would also help to regulate cannabis across the country, ensuring the product a patient gets in one state is the same in another.
- Healthcare professional organizations should provide continuing education on cannabis for their members. This would help to keep doctors up to date on the latest research on cannabis and would give them the confidence to talk to their patients about it.
- Ensure that physicians know when to call in a specialist. Just like a neurologist deals with the nerves of the body and a cardiologist diagnoses and treats issues involving the heart, a cannabinoid specialist is best qualified to care for the endocannabinoid system and to treat patients with cannabis.
- Many patients aren’t comfortable reporting cannabis use to their doctor. Patients should be encouraged to be open and honest with their physician, and physicians should listen without judgment.
ACS is here to help bridge the knowledge gap for medical professionals who want to learn more about medical cannabis. One of our main tenets as an organization is to support medical professionals with the education they need to provide patients with the highest standards of care, as well as the resources to know how to refer patients to a cannabinoid specialist.
Some of our educational offerings include:
- Annual subscription to Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research
- Access to a range of practical, clinical handbooks that answer basic how-to questions
- Access to online video tutorials on basic clinical subjects
- Access to members-only Clinical Reference Library
- Medical cannabis educational courses with discounts for members, including our Comprehensive Medical Cannabis Video Course and accompanying Certification Exam
Members receive all of these benefits and more. If you are interested in becoming a member, click here to get started.
- Herrington, A. J. (2021, December 10). Study shows most physicians lack knowledge of medical cannabis. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/ajherrington/2021/11/24/study-shows-most-physicians-lack--knowledge-of-medical-cannabis/