More MS news articles for April 2001

Physicians Divided on Medical Marijuana

By Sherry Kahn

LOS ANGELES, Apr 23 (Reuters Health)--Using marijuana for treating serious medical conditions continues to be a topic of national debate. While eight states have passed laws allowing physicians to prescribe marijuana and the US Supreme Court is considering a major California case on the issue, little is known about doctors' willingness to prescribe it.

The results of a national survey presented here at the annual meeting of the American Society of Addiction Medicine indicate that physicians are about evenly divided on this question.

When researchers at Providence's Rhode Island Hospital asked 960 doctors to respond to the survey item, "Doctors should be able to legally prescribe marijuana as medical therapy," 36% agreed, 38% disagreed and 26% were neutral.

"We hypothesized that physicians would be more likely to support medical marijuana use in states with legislative mandates," lead author Anthony Charuvastra told Reuters Health. "However, we discovered that was not the case."

"Instead we found that specialty, residence in a state that had ever approved medical marijuana research and physicians' 'permissiveness' and 'non-moralism' attitudes were associated with supporting medical marijuana," he added.

The researchers surveyed physicians in five specialties: addiction medicine-psychiatry, general psychiatry, obstetrics-gynecology, family practice and internal medicine. They found obstetricians-gynecologists and internists more likely to support medical marijuana than other surveyed specialists.

Because doctors in those two specialties are more likely to see cancer patients, they may be more sensitive to marijuana's potential for managing chemotherapy side effects and pain, the Rhode Island team proposed. They noted that the other specialists surveyed are more likely to see active substance abusers and may be more concerned about the drug's negative effects.

Copyright © 2001 Reuters Ltd