More and more doctors are recommending cannabis to their patients suffering from cancer. A recent study showed that eight in ten oncologists recommended trying medical marijuana to their patients, despite most admitting to not having enough information about the medicinal uses and benefits. Due to the eagerness to approve medical legislation, a lot of doctors are recommending marijuana to their patients despite the lack of studies on the drug’s health benefits. Most of the doctors that participated in the study said that conversations about marijuana with patients were started by the patients. They mostly recommend marijuana for symptom management like nausea and pain.
A whopping 56% of the doctors that participated in the study admitted to having inadequate knowledge to do so. Federal restrictions have limited the research being done on the medical benefits of marijuana, due to it still being illegal at the federal level. This makes it hard for doctors to recommend marijuana for much more than symptom management. So far, there is proven evidence supporting marijuana as an effective treatment for chronic pain. They also have seen positive results from using medications like marijuana to minimize symptoms from chemo like nausea.
75% of the doctors that participated in the study said that they thought marijuana posed a lower risk of overdosing than opioids and many saw it being a more effective treatment for nausea than the typical treatment. However, that does not leave it free of all risks. Prolonged smoking can cause a patient to be more likely to get bronchitis and has even been linked to certain types of psychosis; the latter is far rarer, but still possible. Most doctors say that the ultimate decision, however, should be based on a patient-by-patient basis. Each person is experiencing symptoms with differing levels of severity and in a different situation. Those with terminal cancer that’s quickly spreading don’t have as much concern with the long-term effects of the drug; most doctors would advocate they do whatever they wish to make them comfortable.
Cancer patients must make certain considerations when deciding whether or not to use medical marijuana. For instance, those with leukemia could have a higher risk of developing a fungal infection thought to be linked to smoking cannabis. Some patients prefer not to use marijuana, some don’t experience the effects, and others experience adverse effects from it. It’s important that, when marijuana is considered with the patient, the patient’s particular needs are taken into account and an open dialogue is established.
Many of the doctors involved in the study admitted to being apprehensive to start the conversation with their patients about marijuana and even being underqualified for it. These conversations are essential to finding the right treatment for cancer patients based on their unique needs and desires. They also help to better inform patients of what to expect from marijuana, the recommended dosage and options for how to take it, and the potential side effects. All of these factors help inform a patient’s decision about what’s best for them. It’s crucial that doctors feel comfortable and prepared with enough knowledge to have these conversations. Without it, patients will get their information elsewhere, like online, which could lead to them being misinformed.
To resolve this issue, we need to get past the stigma surrounding marijuana and make it easier to perform studies on the benefits and effects of medical marijuana. Without available research, doctors can’t find scientifically proven information on the benefits and downsides of using medical marijuana to better inform their patients. At the same time, doctors have to be more willing to discuss marijuana. They have to open up the dialogue with their patients and help provide them with all the necessary information for their potential treatment with marijuana. It’s risky to leave patients on their own to find reliable information on these sorts of things as there is far too much unregulated and wrong information out there that could lead them astray.