American medical students are graduating with a knowledge gap that leaves them uncomfortable and uninformed when patients ask about medical cannabis, according to a new study.
Over-the-counter and prescribed medical pot products are on the rise, but in a new study over half of medical students said they were not prepared to talk to patients about the risks of cannabis. And even more students said they were not prepared to talk to patients about its potential benefits.
The lack of understanding around medical cannabis and cannabis use may harm doctor-patient relationships and hurt patients, the study warns, and called on medical schools and regulatory bodies to adopt standards for cannabis education.
“Despite the growing public interest and increasing legal availability, formal teaching on cannabis during medical school and residency in the United States is limited,” the study reads.
In an online survey, 105 medical students at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., were polled on their formal education and patient interactions around cannabis. Researchers published the results in the January 2020 edition of Complementary Therapies in Medicine. Respondents were spread out across all four years of medical school, with a slightly higher percentage of first year students responding.
Medical cannabis know-how ‘behind the times’
It’s a demonstration medical cannabis is behind the times, according to the study.
“The lopsided nature of these results is striking because these participants study medicine in Washington, D.C., where medical use became legal in 2010, recreational and private use became legal in 2015, and 6,015 medical cannabis patients are registered users as of May 2019,” the study reads.
Only two per cent of students said they learned a sufficient amount about medical cannabis in school, with 60 per cent saying they didn’t learn anything and 38 per cent saying they learned a little bit, and left students wanting to learn more. Just under 47 per cent agreed there should be more formal education on medical cannabis, with 31 per cent saying they strongly agreed.
Around 55 per cent of students said they’d already had a patient ask them about medical cannabis, and 54 per cent said they were not at all prepared to answer questions about its potential risks. Thirty-two per cent said they were slightly prepared talk about risks.
Students were also in the dark about the benefits of medical cannabis and cannabis use. Over 57 per cent said they were not at all prepared to talk about health benefits, and 39 per cent said they were slightly prepared. Only one per cent of respondents said they were very prepared.