Medical students rarely receive any formal training on issues specific to the therapeutic use of cannabis, and few proactively research the issue on their own, according to survey data published in the journal Cureus.

Researchers affiliated with a pair of Florida universities surveyed a cohort of medical students regarding their beliefs about cannabis.

Consistent with numerous other prior surveys, respondents reported receiving no explicit instruction or coursework about the medical use of cannabis. Moreover, fewer than three percent of those surveyed acknowledged having ever “searched the library database or read scientific journal articles to obtain information about medical cannabis.” Rather, most respondents said that their beliefs about marijuana were based exclusively upon anecdotes provided by friends or family or by posts they had read on social media (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, Instagram).

Commenting on the study’s findings, NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “The use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes has been legal in certain jurisdictions of the United States for several decades. It is stunning that the medical establishment largely remains unwilling to acknowledge this reality and that so many health professionals in training continue to profess willful ignorance about this important topic.”

Many respondents also expressed skepticism that patients could competently self-titrate cannabis safely and effectively.

Authors concluded: “[A] disconcerting finding of this study was that while participants, regardless of which year of the program they were in, (1) lacked accurate knowledge about MC [medical cannabis] and its potential adverse effects, (2) admitted to having no formal training nor education in MC, (3) relied heavily on anecdotal evidence and social media to obtain information about MC, and (4) felt confident that all their assumptions were correct and spoke with great conviction for their point of view. Medical educators may consider investing time in integrating MC content into their curricula to address these issues, as students will be entering graduate training positions in states where MC is legal.”

Most of the survey’s respondents did express a desire to receive training about medical cannabis while in medical school.

Prior surveys of medical professionals have consistently reported that most lack any formal education in medical cannabis and that they possess little confidence in speaking about the issue with their patients. Patient survey data similarly reports that most patients do not believe that their primary care providers are sufficiently knowledgeable about cannabis-specific health-related issues.

A keyword search of the National Library of Medicine/PubMed.gov website yields over 41,000 scientific papers specific to either cannabis or its constituents. In 2021, researchers published some 4,000 scientific papers about cannabis — the most ever recorded in a single year.

Full text of the study, “Medical students’ attitudes, knowledge, and beliefs about medical cannabis: A qualitative descriptive study,” appears in Cureus. Additional information is available from the NORML fact-sheet, ‘Health Clinicians’ Attitudes Toward Cannabis.’

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