Health Providers’ Perspectives on Medical Marijuana Use

Topic: Innovative Clinical Interventions

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Background:

According to the CDC, 117 million Americans have one or more chronic health conditions and 31% have used two or more prescription drugs in the past month. Approximately 40% of adults in the United States are using some form of Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Medical marijuana is one such medicine, and to date 29 states have legalized medical marijuana.

Methods:

A multicenter, anonymous, on-line survey of health care providers was distributed via e-mail within a large health system in the NY Metropolitan area. The survey was distributed in April and May of 2017. The specific aim was to collect information about health care providers’ perspectives on the use of MM in general and for specific medical conditions.

Results:

The sample (n=137) consisted of 4% RNs, 10% NPs, 10% fellows, 21% resident physicians, and 52% attending physicians. Average experience was 13 years (range: 0-43), half (53%) were under 40 years old and just over half (56%) were female. Most practitioners recognized a benefit of MM for the treatment of cancer-associated symptoms, few were concerned with side effects and 5% of responders answered that MM was not appropriate at any stage of illness. Responders were “most likely to recommend or refer MM if other therapies were not effective” for cancer (83%), chronic pain (68%), spinal cord injury with spasticity (50%), MS (46%), epilepsy (42%), neuropathy (42%) and Parkinson’s disease (41%). Most providers (77%) believed that MM has the potential to reduce overall opioid use, this was found to be statistically more common in younger providers. The most common conditions that providers reported their patients were requesting MM for were cancer (37%), chronic pain (26%) and neuropathy (10%). The most common concerns about MM use were side effects (16%), addiction (13%), legal consequences (11%), cost (7%) and that other providers would judge MM use (7%).

Conclusions:

Our survey shows that providers are overwhelmingly in support of MM use in patients with chronic illness, particularly in cancer patients. However providers describe significant and practical concerns about MM utilization. Given the rate at which MM is being legalized throughout the country, it is imperative that there be increased focus on education and clinical studies on MM.

Author

Co-authors

  • Diana Martins-Welch, MD
  • Isabella Park, DO
  • Melissa Devlin, MD
  • Meredith Akerman, MS
  • Michael Dauber, MA
  • Myriam Kline, PhD
  • Sony Modayil, MD

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