The subject of medical marijuana is seldom explored in American medical schools, a new study suggests.
"Medical education needs to catch up to marijuana legislation," said senior author Dr. Laura Jean Bierut of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
"Physicians in training need to know the benefits and drawbacks associated with medical marijuana so they know when or if, and to whom, to prescribe the drug.”
The research – published online in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence – included the results of a survey of curriculum deans at 101 medical schools. One-quarter of deans said their graduates weren’t equipped to answer questions about medical marijuana.
Researchers also surveyed 258 medical residents and fellows across the U.S. Nine out of 10 said they were unprepared to prescribe medical marijuana, while 85 percent said they hadn’t received any education about medical marijuana.
Only nine percent of medical schools teach their students about medical marijuana, according to the Association of Medical Colleges database.
"As a future physician, it worries me," said author Anastasia Evanoff, a third-year medical student.
"We need to know how to answer questions about medical marijuana's risks and benefits, but there is a fundamental mismatch between state laws involving marijuana and the education physicians-in-training receive at medical schools throughout the country.”
Evanoff added that doctors are now getting better training on opioids, but the gap in medical marijuana education makes this an incomplete module.
"We talk about how those drugs can affect every organ system in the body, and we learn how to discuss the risks and benefits with patients," Evanoff said. "But if a patient were to ask about medical marijuana, most medical students wouldn't know what to say.”