Exposing the Cannabis Knowledge Gap Between Doctors + Patients

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Doctors are feeling the heat as cannabis slots itself in as a more normalized part of society.  This is not something that medical school prepared them for.

Currently, patients are the ones suggesting, or even pressuring doctors to prescribe cannabis as a treatment method for everything from chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy to a range of mood disorders.

The once-contentious topic of cannabis use is becoming increasingly more prevalent in both the medicinal and recreational markets. As a medicine, cannabis falls into a challenging category for patients, health professionals, and politicians; the issue is that many doctors are simply uneducated on how to prescribe and dose cannabis. As a non-traditional medicine, cannabis doesn’t fit the mold of medicine that requires a specific dose, running for a specified number of days. It’s unique in its variations, properties, varying effects on individuals and therefore its dose-ability.

Couple that with a nascent body of clinical studies about cannabis’ medicinal benefits and/or potential harms, and many doctors don’t want to bother with the headaches that could come with prescribing cannabis.

The result, a non-traditional medicine that has worked wonders for patients managing things like chronic pain, spasticity, and seizures, is now the responsibility of doctors who are either uneducated on the topic or are uncomfortable with prescribing it. This gap in knowledge for the everyday physician remains problematic.

 

Gatekeepers of The Medicinal Cannabis World

Despite being a gatekeeper for the medicine in markets which only allow medicinal cannabis use, the everyday doctor in North America continues to have cold feet when it comes to cannabis. I’m inclined to feel bad for doctors being pressured by their patients to prescribe cannabis.

The very nature of medical cannabis is complicated to dose and prescribe, with patients having to discover terpenoid and cannabinoid profiles themselves through journaling, trial, and error. Doctors can’t prescribe cannabis like a traditional medicine,  but will instead be setting patients off on their own “cannabis journey.”

However, the results speak for themselves, and as patients wean themselves off traditional pharmaceuticals riff with side effects and some with gravely addictive properties, cannabis as a medicine is proving beneficial for the patients suffering from a myriad of issues.

Clinical based research on cannabis remains a small drop in a big pond, especially compared to the research that is available on more traditional treatment methods, such as opioids.

 

Verification and Understanding of The Cannabis Knowledge Gap

Anastasia Evanoff and four co-authors published a study in the fall of 2017, effectively highlighting this “cannabis knowledge gap.”

 

In the Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence, researchers surveyed 101 different North American curriculum deans, with two-thirds of deans reporting that graduates were not prepared to prescribe medical cannabis to patients. 25 percent of deans reported that their graduates were unprepared to field questions related to medical cannabis. [Editor’s Note: Many medical schools are at Universities which receive federal funding and may therefore not be willing to include medical cannabis until permitted to do so by federal legalization]

Of 258 residents and fellows surveyed in this study, a staggering 90 per cent said they were unprepared to prescribe cannabis, and 85 percent reported receiving zero education about medicinal cannabis in medical school or during their residency.

The study stated a glaring “mismatch” when it came to the state-level legalization of cannabis, and the preparation levels for a physician to be.

 

The Next Steps for Doctors and Patients

Where my passion lies is in educating the masses; both patients and doctors. This knowledge gap presents a problem for patients who need medicine from gatekeepers who are treading in unfamiliar waters.

My efforts are rooted in offering point-of-care education and clinically validated resources to doctors, and providing easy to understand resources for patients on their cannabis journey with Sail. I want to further normalize cannabis as a medicine and fill this knowledge gap with the right tools and educational efforts.

I hope to aid doctors in the challenges they face in prescribing and dosing cannabis, giving them tools to best guide patients on their cannabis use. By closing this knowledge gap, by pushing for the normalization of cannabis in the medical world, we can focus on what’s important, which is healing.
 
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Prad Sekar

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