9 of 10 Medical Students Aren’t Being Adequately Trained on Medical Cannabis, Study Finds

A new study has found that medical schools are not adequately preparing physicians-in-training to discuss or recommend medical marijuana.

Medical schools are not adequately preparing their graduates to recommend medical marijuana, according to the findings of a new study published in the online journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Researchers from Washington State University, led by Anastasia B. Evanoff, sent surveys to 258 medical residents and fellows throughout the United States. They found that 9 out of every 10 physicians-in-training are unprepared to answer questions regarding medical marijuana, and 85 percent haven’t received any education about medical marijuana at all.

“Medical education needs to catch up on marijuana legislation,” said professor of psychiatry and the study’s senior author Dr. Laura Jean Bierut. “Physicians in training need to know the benefits and drawbacks associated with medical marijuana so they know when or if, and to whom, to prescribe the drug.”

The researchers also sent surveys to medical school curriculum deans at 172 medical schools in North America. Of the 101 that replied, 66.7 percent reported that their graduates were not prepared to prescribe marijuana. Some 25 percent of deans said their physicians-in-training were not equipped to answer questions regarding medical marijuana.

Data from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) revealed that just 9 percent of medical schools reported teaching their students about medical marijuana and its cannabinoids.

“As a future physician, it worries me,” said Evanoff, lead author and third-year medical student. “We need to know how to answer questions about medical marijuana’s risks and benefits, but there is a fundamental mismatch between state laws involving marijuana and the education physicians-in-training receive at medical schools throughout the country.”

Twenty-nine states and Washington D.C. have passed laws legalizing the medical use of marijuana. Oklahoma will vote on a medical marijuana measure in 2018, and campaigns to legalize medical marijuana are underway in Utah and Missouri. Some market analysts even believe legalization could expand to all 50 states by 2021.

The researchers believe that the need for doctors to have adequate training on cannabis will only grow more urgent as more states legalize marijuana for medical and recreational use. As it stands now, medical professionals must attend cannabis-specific educational courses or self-educate through internet resources. Doctors are being asked about cannabis, but are unequipped for providing adequate guidance, and medical training needs to adapt as it has with pain management prescription drugs, Evanoff argues.

“More medical students are now getting better training about opioids, for example,” Evanoff said. “We talk about how those drugs [opioids] can affect every organ system in the body, and we learn how to discuss the risks and benefits with patients, but if a patient were to ask about medical marijuana, most medical students wouldn’t know what to say.”

You can access the entire study – “Physicians-in-training are not prepared to prescribe medical marijuana” – via Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Learn more about medical cannabis laws in the U.S. Keep up with the latest cannabis industry developments by visiting our news page.