STORY INLINE POST
It is a reality that, recently, the medical and scientific community have found a common starting point: cannabis must stop being taboo; this plant, with its medical and therapeutic applications, has returned from an oblivious research-based and factual approach and is ready to keep fighting against its prohibition.
It is very exciting every time a country or state joins the growing list in favor of the legalization of this plant, but the following question remains to be answered: if cannabis has been, time and again, shown to have a growing list of health, medical and wellness benefits, why is there a perceived lack of consensus on what can be done, how it can be done, and why it should be done among health professionals all around the world?
In the field of medical cannabis, significant advances in research and development have been made in the treatment of several types of disorders and conditions in the last couple of decades. For example, approximately 30 percent of the population suffering from some type of mood disorder does not respond to the de facto available therapies; the search for new therapeutic approaches continues and cannabis has been front and center of such new undertakings.
So, cannabis is further establishing itself as a clear and safe alternative for medications, as more research is being done on the pharmacology and the effectiveness of its molecules and the modulation of the endocannabinoid system in a person. This natural remedy offers patients peace of mind, fighting stress by improving mood, tackling pain, providing energy and focus, relieving anxiety, inducing hunger and combating insomnia, among its many benefits.
There is, however, a clear problem. While we pursue more evidenced-based applications of the plant, a wide range of physicians are still unsure about the safety and efficacy of cannabis, and as a direct consequence, patients aren’t clear on how to use it as medicine.
There is also the perception of the plant. While medical cannabis is continuously being proved to yield relief and bring therapeutic recovery, many still associate its use with the intoxicating and side effects of the recreational use of the plant. What’s worse, there are many health professionals who are part of the same stigma, or at least there are those who can’t provide a conscious explanation of the difference between recreational and therapeutic uses to their patients.
With such a latent and increasing demand for cannabis-based medications, the illiteracy on the subject, whether they are medical candidates for cannabis prescriptions or the very health professionals in charge of such diagnoses, is alarming.
We shouldn't point fingers, however, at a specific group of professionals; the reality is that educational institutions worldwide have taken a slow approach and adoption to cannabis. Derived from out-of-touch government campaigns that alert the population to the “dangerous world of drugs,” including the famous “war against drug,” the general taboo has been handed down by generations leading to the social stigma with which the cannabis plant is associated.
As cannabis becomes more mainstream, more people will find themselves exposed to related products and information, without proper context or guidance; they may be tempted to try them but may not feel comfortable talking about it with doctors or nurses. Healthcare professionals need to be sensitive, unbiased and knowledgeable about cannabis for the sake of their patients.
It is difficult to form an educated opinion, much less a professional assertion, on a subject that is not yet completely embraced due to stigma or understood and studied because of lack of education on the subject.
We must understand that, regardless of what we may think about cannabis as a therapeutic approach, we must be prepared. We are not expecting to have every physician prescribing cannabis, which is ridiculous, but we should be expecting that a growing trend of patients will be interacting with the plant, one way or another. Is your physician knowledgeable enough to understand the interaction between cannabis and other medications? Or that not every person is a candidate for medical cannabis prescription?
The lack of official endocannabinoid and therapeutic application of cannabis curricula in health and medical education is, then, something that must be addressed both by the public and private sector. It is only essential that we should hold fast to the basic medical and scientific principles in our education, communication, and information-sharing regarding cannabis and its applications.
Cannabis education is not a “nice-to-have” but an absolute necessity for any healthcare professional who wants to provide quality patient care.