A large majority of medical practitioners is of the opinion that opioids present greater health risks to patients than medical marijuana.
A new study printed in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research finds widespread support for the medical marijuana use among licensed doctors from New York. Investigators from the University of New York discovered that 71% of practicing doctors in the state are in favor of legalizing medical marijuana.
In the survey covering the whole state of practicing doctors, the researchers discovered that 76% admitted to having patients who acknowledged having used cannabis for medical purposes at some point. In addition, 50% said that they had patients who asked them about cannabis during last year.
The study furthermore revealed that 84% of medical practitioners are of the opinion that opioids pose a bigger health risk to patients than marijuana. Just like other parts of the United States, New York is impacted by the opioid crisis. The Opioid Summary Report from the state of New York revealed that there were 1,408 fatal overdoses in the state in 2015; all of those were related to opioid pain relievers.
At 69%, the pain was the most typical symptom for which the medical practitioners who participate in New York’s program suggested medical marijuana. Medical marijuana has been legal ever since 2014 in New York; however, the pain was added as a qualifying condition less than two years ago. Some other common conditions for which participating medical practitioners recommend marijuana include seizures, muscle spasms, nausea, and cachexia.
To learn about the attitudes on marijuana among doctors in New York, the investigators used a survey made from 30 questions to collect data from 167 medical practitioners residing mainly in the city of New York and surrounding areas.
A Medical Marijuana Knowledge Gap Among Doctors Still Exists
Another thing that the study revealed was that, in general, doctors from New York lack knowledge of medical marijuana’s potential and therapeutic applications. Moreover, the doctors aren’t sure how exactly they should participate in the medical marijuana program that the state provides. When asked about it, 45% said that they weren’t familiar with the requirements for either patients or doctors.
“The majority of responders replied that they weren’t sure, both about the number of qualifying conditions (44%), as well as about available formulations (50%), the study reports.”
In order to be able to recommend medical marijuana to patients, doctors in New York have to take part in a certification program first. The course costs $249, lasts around four hours, and is part of the state’s registration process for medical practitioners. So far, the state of New York estimates that 656 doctors have completed all the required steps to be able to recommend medical marijuana.
The study concludes that the majority of surveyed medical practitioners supports the use of medical marijuana as a viable choice for patients, but few are registered and have satisfying knowledge of medical marijuana.
Even though the study sample of the research is geographically limited and small, the results of the survey highlight key physician issues which are likely applicable to physicians in other states as well. There is a need for joint efforts at the federal, state, and academic levels to provide physicians with evidence-based guidelines for the safe use of medical marijuana.
The findings of the study are consistent with those of previous inspections which have shown that physicians are often not prepared for questions about the benefits and use of medical marijuana. Almost 9 out of 10 medical students don’t receive any training in regard to medical cannabis.
You can read the new study, “New York Physicians’ Perspectives and Knowledge of the State Medical Marijuana Program,” via Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.