With medical marijuana legal in 29 states, and the District of Columbia, healthcare professionals in those jurisdictions have an ethical duty to be familiar with medical marijuana, including potential uses of medical marijuana to address problems their patients have with numerous medical issues.
WebMD is one good source of information, including a recent posting on the use of marijuana in pain management (https://www.webmd.com/pain-management/features/medicalmarijuana-uses). For most people, marijuana increases appetite, decreases nausea, improves falling and staying asleep, decreases depression, and decreases pain, etc.
To have a patient with any of the problems that may be helped by medical marijuana, it strikes me as unethical for the therapist not to discuss medical marijuana as one alternative – just as we would discuss other medical treatments that may be helpful.
A given patient could spend months or years in treatment if the therapist does not assess for potential benefits from medical marijuana – or any other medication that might be helpful. Marijuana (cannabis) was a patent medication available over the counter until 1937 in the United States.
Cannabidiol (CBD) has been shown repeatedly to reduce spasms in children, and is showing promise in reducing symptoms of epilepsy. All 50 states permit the prescribing of CBD for seizures in children and, possibly, for other seizure disorder for children or adults.
For a lot of information about the history of marijuana as medicine, one can download a free copy of by far the best book on the subject, Licit and Illicit Drugs by Ed Brecher and the Editors of Consumer Reports published in 1972 (http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/library/studies/cu/cumenu.htm).
While the Controlled Substances Act places any form of THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) in Schedule I, as having NO medical use, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) places synthetic THC (Marinol, dronabinol) in Schedule III, meaning that it can be prescribed by any physician for any medical purpose.
One of the many good websites for information about marijuana/cannabis is https://www.thecannabist.co/. I believe healthcare professionals have an ethical duty to be aware of the above and other web sites that give current, accurate information about medical marijuana.
By Andrew W. Kane, PhD
Related Online Continuing Education (CE) Course:
Medical Marijuana is a 3-hour online continuing education (CE) course that presents a summary of the current literature on the various medical, legal, educational, occupational, and ethical aspects of marijuana. In spite of the fact that nearly half of the states in this country have enacted legislation legalizing marijuana in some fashion, the reality is that neither the intended “medical” benefits of marijuana nor its known (and as yet unknown) adverse effects have been adequately examined using controlled studies. Conclusive literature remains sparse, and opinion remains divided and contentious.
This course will address the major questions about marijuana that are as yet unanswered by scientific evidence. What are the known medical uses for marijuana? What is the legal status of marijuana in state and federal legislation? What are the interactions with mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, and suicidal behavior? Is marijuana addictive? Is marijuana a gateway drug? What are the adverse consequences of marijuana use? Do state medical marijuana laws increase the use of marijuana and other drugs? The course will conclude with a list of implications for healthcare and mental health practitioners. Course #30-86 | 2016 | 55 pages | 24 posttest questions
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Professional Development Resources is a nonprofit educational corporation 501(c)(3) organized in 1992. We are approved to sponsor continuing education by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA); the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychology & School Psychology, Dietetics & Nutrition, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, and Occupational Therapy Practice; the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board and Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology; the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs; the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists and State Board of Social Worker Examiners; and are CE Broker compliant (all courses are reported within a few days of completion).
Target Audience: Psychologists, Counselors, Social Workers, Marriage & Family Therapist (MFTs), Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs), Occupational Therapists (OTs), Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs), School Psychologists, and Teachers