Nearly half of U.S. cancer doctors have reportedly recommended recently medical marijuana to treat their patients, even though most of them don’t know much about its medicinal uses.

The study led by Dr. Ilana Braun of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. In the study, the authors discovered that all 29 states in the U.S. have medical marijuana programs that allowed doctors to recommend it to cancer patients. Even though there were no really comprehensive studies about the effects of medical marijuana on cancer patients, it did not prevent doctors from prescribing the drug to patients.

Dr. Braun said medical doctors now are not as “close-minded” as before in prescribing alternative forms of treatment for cancer and pain-related ailments. She recommended that more research is needed for the beneficial uses of medical marijuana for patients.

The fairly new study said that nearly 8 out of 10 doctors reported having discussed the use of marijuana with patients or their families, with 46% saying they recommended it for cancer or pain-related illnesses to at least one patient in the past year.

Moreover, about 56% of the doctors said they didn’t have sufficient information on marijuana even though they did recommend it to their patients. They also said that almost always, the subject of marijuana used by raised by the patients and their families, not the doctors themselves.

The survey was composed of a survey of a random sample of 237 cancer doctors or 63% of the total.

There are previous studies and literature on marijuana indicating that it has treated chronic pain in adults as well as eased the nausea from post-chemotherapy treatments. This recent study revealed that 67% of the cancer doctors viewed marijuana as a useful addition to the standard pain therapies, with 75% saying that it poses less risk of overdose compared to opioids. About 50% of the doctors surveyed consider marijuana as equal to or more effective than standard treatments for cancer-related nausea.

Marijuana is still considered an illegal drug by federal officials and federal restrictions give it limited permission for research.  Last year, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine asserted the lack of scientific information about marijuana makes it a risk to public health.

The National Academies report still considers marijuana as not harmless. It still can induce a high that can lead to higher incidences of traffic accidents, schizophrenia and other psychosis, and bronchitis from long-term use.

Some doctors have an ambivalent attitude toward marijuana. Dr. Steven Pergam of Seattle Cancer Care Alliance was quoted saying that if a dying patient asked for it when his/her cancer illness has spread, he will just give it if they believe it will make them more comfortable. However, it might pose a problem to patients with leukemia because there is a “theoretical possibility” of it stimulating a fungal infection.

Patients nowadays are more open to trying alternative ways of cancer and pain treatment, such as medical marijuana. In fact, last year, we reported that about 50% or more of patients with terminal or near terminal illnesses often will opt for an alternative treatment to accompany their conventional treatments.

What is your opinion of the practice of medical doctors recommending medical marijuana to those with cancer or pain-related illnesses? Share your opinions in the comments below.

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