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Medical Cannabis Decisions Being Made by Users, Not Doctors

Substantial portion of medical cannabis users stop taking or self-adjust dosage of pharmaceuticals


TUESDAY, Jan. 22, 2019 (Pharmacist's Briefing) -- Many patients use medical cannabis without their mainstream health care provider's knowledge, and further, they self-adjust their pharmaceutical use in response to cannabis use, according to a study published online Jan. 8 in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.

Daniel J. Kruger, Ph.D., from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and Jessica S. Kruger, Ph.D., from the University at Buffalo in New York, surveyed 392 adults attending an annual public event advocating for cannabis law reform. The attendees were asked about their attitudes toward and utilization of medical cannabis and the mainstream health care system.

The researchers found that more than three-quarters of respondents (78 percent) reported using cannabis to help treat a medical or health condition. Medical cannabis users reported a greater degree of trust in medical cannabis compared with mainstream health care. Medical cannabis users rated cannabis better on effectiveness, side effects, safety, addictiveness, availability, and cost compared with pharmaceutical drugs. As a result of the use of medical cannabis, 42 percent of respondents reported they stopped taking a pharmaceutical drug and 38 percent reported they used less of a pharmaceutical drug. Just under one-third of respondents (30 percent) reported that their mainstream health care provider did not know that they used medical cannabis. The survey brought other issues to the surface, including lack of access to mainstream health care, self-initiated treatment of health issues, little knowledge of psychoactive content, and heavy cannabis use.

"Those working in public health and medicine have an obligation to reduce harm and maximize benefits to the health of individuals and society, and thus serious consideration and scientific investigation of medical cannabis are needed," the authors write.

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