Indications and administration practices amongst medical cannabis healthcare providers: a cross-sectional survey
The medical use of cannabis has been legislatively restricted for decades in the US and abroad. In recent years, changing local and national policies have given rise to a community of healthcare providers who may be recommending the medical use of cannabis without the benefit of formal clinical practice guidelines or sufficient training and education. In addition, a citizen science movement has emerged whereby unlicensed and untrained individuals are acting as healthcare provider proxies, offering cannabis-specific clinical care to “patients”. This study sought to characterize the clinical practice characteristics of these provider groups.
An anonymous, online survey was designed to describe levels of cannabis-specific education, practice characteristics, indications for medical use, dose, administration forms and adverse effects related to cannabis use. The questionnaire was disseminated via professional medical cannabis associations and by word-of-mouth. It was accessed between June 31-December 31, 2018. A self-selecting sample of respondents (n = 171) completed the survey.
Formal education or training in the medical use of cannabis was significantly more common among licensed respondents than unlicensed respondents (95.5% vs 76.9% respectively, OR, 6.3, 95% CI, 1.2-32.3, p = 0.03). The vast majority (n = 74, 83.15%) of licensed respondents reported having recommended cannabis as an adjunct to an existing prescription drug. Almost two-thirds (n = 64, 71.9%) reported having recommended it as a substitute. When delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the principal therapeutic constituent of interest, vaporization is the most common method of administration recommended (n = 94 responses, 71.4% of respondents). In contrast, when cannabidiol (CBD) is the principal therapeutic constituent of interest, oral administration (sublingual or oromucosal absorption) is the most common method (n = 70 responses, 71.4% of respondents).
Individuals who recommend the medical use of cannabis appear to be self-generating a community standard of practice in the absence of formal clinical guidelines on dosing, interactions and other characteristics. Reducing barriers to clinical research on cannabis products is needed, not only to better understand their risks and benefits, but also to augment the evidence-base for informing clinical practice.
PMID: 31837706 DOI: 10.1186/s12875-019-1059-8