A significant percentage of health care practitioners possess only limited knowledge about the use and efficacy of medical cannabis, according to survey data published in the Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.
A team of investigators affiliated with the Oregon Health & Science University surveyed 178 health care professionals (physicians, registered nurses, and nurse practitioners) attending a Continuing Medical Education program on the clinical uses of cannabis. Nearly all of the health professionals surveyed were licensed to practice in either California, Oregon, or Washington – three jurisdictions where medical cannabis access has been legally available for more than two decades.
Researchers reported: “This study found that HCPs’ [health care professionals] knowledge about the medical risks and benefits of clinical cannabis, although similar among professions, is generally poor and has specific important gaps. Health care professionals scored an average of only 63.2 percent on direct knowledge tests about clinical cannabis, with no significant differences among professions. Attendees scored highest on questions about laws and regulations (85.7 percent). Mean scores for questions related to all other topics, including risks and harms, pharmacology, pain, multiple sclerosis spasticity, and seizures, were all below 70 percent, equivalent to a C grade.”
They added, “Despite more than 95 percent of respondents practicing in states (Oregon, Washington, or California) where clinical cannabis had been legal for more than 20 years and recreational cannabis had been legal for at least two years, their knowledge about clinical cannabis was poor. This supports that wide and prolonged availability of cannabis is not sufficient to accomplish provider knowledge and that more education is needed.”
Authors concluded, “The findings of this study support that, despite a growing evidence base, and even after many years of legalization, HCPs including APRNs [advance practice registered nurses] have substantial gaps in their knowledge of the potential risks and benefits associated with the use of cannabis for medical purposes.”
The study’s conclusions are consistent with those of prior surveys of health care professionals in which most doctors and nurses acknowledge that they are insufficiently trained in issues related to the use of cannabis. Separate survey data published in 2020 also reported that fewer than one-in-five patients believe that their primary care providers are sufficiently knowledgeable about cannabis-specific health-related issues.
Full text of the study, “Cannabis for medical purposes: A cross-sectional analysis of health care professionals’ knowledge,” appears in the Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. Additional information is available from the NORML fact-sheet, ‘Health Clinicians’ Attitudes Toward Cannabis.’