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Medical Students Aren't Learning Anything About Medical Marijuana

Considering 29 states have legalized medical marijuana, and more are most likely on the way, you'd think that doctors around the country would be diligently studying the effects of cannabis to help their patients. But it turns out just about any Regular Joe knows about as much about medical marijuana as med students.

The Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis recently surveyed medical school deans, residents and fellow around the country and examined curriculums from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). They found that medical marijuana is going virtually unaddressed by all of these schools.

The researchers from Wash U sent surveys to 172 medical schools around the country. Two-thirds of respondents said their students were not prepared to prescribe medical marijuana, and 25 percent of med school deans said their students wouldn't even be able to answer questions about medical marijuana.

Wash U also surveyed residents and fellows who received their medical education around the country before coming to St. Louis. 90 percent of those respondents said they didn't feel prepared enough to prescribe medical marijuana and 85 percent said they received zero education on the topic in med school. This is consistent with Wash U's findings on curriculums as only 9 percent of med schools reported any teachings about medical marijuana.

While it would obviously be a somewhat tricky situation to teach medical marijuana in states where it's illegal, there are 29 states (and Washington D.C.) where it's legal. So you'd expect at least half of med schools across the country to teach about a subject that's 100 percent legal there!

"Medical education needs to catch up to marijuana legislation," said Dr. Laura Jean Bierut, a professor at Wash U and a member of the National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse. “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.”

One of the authors of the study expressed her concern about these results.

“As a future physician, it worries me,” said 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.”

This would be like graduating from veterinary college and not knowing how to treat illnesses in cats. 


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