According to a small study conducted in Michigan, the majority of medical cannabis patients don’t feel comfortable sharing their cannabis use with their regular physician. Whether they think they are “going behind their physician’s back” or feel a stigma attached to using cannabis, a large majority of cannabis users are utilizing the treatment without their physician’s knowledge.

The study, titled “Communication between healthcare providers and medical cannabis patients regarding referral and medication substitution,” was published in the Journal of Cannabis Research and was authored by researchers at the University of Michigan Medical School. The study followed and spoke with 275 medical cannabis patients to determine how they discuss cannabis with their physicians.

Participants revealed that they often used cannabis in place of traditional pharmaceutical medications but often did not report this use to their primary doctor because they were unsure of their physician’s stance on the subject. The lack of inclusion results in real concern from both traditional doctors and those physicians who are skilled in cannabis treatment methodologies.

  • Only 18 percent of survey respondents rated their primary physician’s knowledge about medical cannabis as “very good” or “excellent,” and only 21 percent were “very” or “completely” confident in their physician’s ability to integrate medical cannabis into their traditional treatment regimen.
  • 86% of respondents reported obtaining their cannabis recommendation from a doctor specializing in cannabis rather than their primary healthcare provider.
  • 86% of respondents reported that they sometimes used cannabis as a replacement for other prescribed medicine.
  • 44% of those surveyed said they did not tell their primary doctor that they were using medical marijuana instead of their medication.

The study stresses the need for better integration between medical cannabis and mainstream healthcare, achieved through the education of “traditional” health care providers. This education would need to include an in-depth understanding of the endocannabinoid system and the benefits and risks of cannabis in therapeutic contexts.

While there is a clear need for traditional physicians and cannabis care physicians to communicate regarding a patient’s needs, an individual’s aversion to disclosing their marijuana use makes that problematic. Because the patients are keeping the two disciplines separate, the doctors are not speaking and collaborating on the totality of patient care.

The study results reveal the low levels of integration between medical cannabis and mainstream healthcare, suggesting a real need for better physician education around appropriate medical cannabis use.

There have been other reports in the past that have exposed these communications issues and the fact that most health professionals do not have the information they need to truly understand how the legal use of medical cannabis can help their patients. 

Medical cannabis is fairly new to the medical treatment game in Florida, having only been made legal since 2016. As medical cannabis use continues to spread and be accepted in the mainstream, awareness and education among physicians and health care providers should also increase.

For more than 25 years, board-certified physician Dr. Daniel P. Stein has used his extensive neurology expertise to help his patients obtain optimum health and well-being. He is a renowned speaker on the topic of medical cannabis and is happy to work with Sarasota area physicians to integrate cannabis into their treatment plans.

Physicians who refer their patients to Dr. Stein can be assured that they will receive thoughtful custom treatment options in a professional, traditional medical setting. If you are a physician seeking alternative treatment options for your patients, call Dr. Stein at Neurology of Cannabis today.