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3 Problems Doctors Face When Prescribing Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana has been a controversial topic amongst physicians for decades, but with more and more states legalizing the therapeutic drug doctors n...

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|Oct 23|magazine6 min read

Medical marijuana has been a controversial topic amongst physicians for decades, but with more and more states legalizing the therapeutic drug doctors need to inform themselves if prescribing cannabis is the right thing to do.

Ziva D. Cooper, PhD, Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology at Columbia University, is intrigued by the enduring power of psychoactive substances to maintain drug-taking behavior. She believes there are three major limitations doctors face when prescribing medical marijuana and shared her insight on The Doctors Channel.

Dr. Cooper explained that a lack of controlled studies and unknown risks to pulmonary health are the main concerns for many doctors.

Here are the three problems doctors face when prescribing medical marijuana.

Problem 1: There have not been double blind, placebo controlled studies demonstrating the efficacy of marijuana for the number of indications for which it is prescribed.

“To take it one step further, there also haven’t been studies to determine that marijuana is better than some of the other medications that are on the market,” said Cooper. “So this is an important consideration when deciding to prescribe a patient medical marijuana.”

Problem 2: There are risks to using medical marijuana including dependence and the fact that smoking anything will compromise pulmonary health.

“If somebody is opting for the medical marijuana route, some things to consider would be, let’s say, vaporizing,” Cooper said. “Whenever somebody smokes anything, there’s this carbon monoxide expiration and this is an indication that it’s not necessarily a good thing to do. When somebody vaporizes, the carbon monoxide levels are negligible.”

Problem 3: Marijuana is not necessarily controlled and studied in terms of the different chemicals that are in it.

“Different strains have different names and actually now there are services that are provided that can use methods to detect how much THC is in each strain [and] how much cannabidiol is in each strain,” Cooper added. “But when a patient goes to a medical dispensary, they might not necessarily know all the other components that are in there or how much THC is in that strain.”