A new survey from the University of Colorado Cancer Center revealed that most oncologists support medical marijuana, but many of them are afraid to recommend it because they haven’t received any training regarding cannabis-based therapies.
Of the 172 health professionals surveyed, 73 percent said they “believe that medical marijuana provides benefits for cancer patients.” However, 53 percent of respondents said they did not feel comfortable recommending cannabis to their patients.
The discomfort likely stemmed from a lack of cannabis education and resources for licensed medical professionals.
“We asked and most providers didn’t train in a state where medical marijuana was legal,” Dr. Ashley E. Glode, a pharmacist and assistant professor at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, told the University of Colorado’s Colorado Cancer Blogs. Glode is also the survey’s lead author.
“We need to adapt our healthcare education to include this, and also offer trainings on medical marijuana to current providers,” she said.
Doctors were also concerned about the legal and professional consequences of recommending cannabis, particularly those operating in states with limited or no medical marijuana programs.
The third reason doctors felt sketchy about weed: inconsistent dosing. Pharmaceutical science is based around exact dosing for specific compounds. When it comes to consuming the raw plant or its concentrates, dosing is rarely, if ever, precise.
“The issue is it’s not regulated – a dispensary might say a product has this much THC and this much CBD, but no one is testing that for sure,” Glode continued. “Then from a consumption perspective, inhalation and smoking is the least preferred due to possible damage to the lung. So many doctors recommend edibles, oils, and tinctures, but we still don’t have good data comparing dosage across these forms.”
Perhaps one of the most interesting findings from the survey is that 68 percent of doctors learned more about medical marijuana from their own patients than they did from medical conferences, journals, or regular training.
The University of Colorado survey confirms results from a similar survey published last year in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. In that 2018 study, 80 percent of doctors said they discussed medical cannabis with their patients, whereas only 30 percent said they felt comfortable recommending it.
The survey’s results were presented at the annual 2019 meeting for the American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO). ASCO has over 40,000 members, and its annual meeting is one of the largest professional gatherings for US-based cancer specialists. It also publishes the Journal of Clinical Oncology, mentioned above.
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