Doctors spend eight or more years in college and medical school before they finally are ready to practice -- but Dr. Stacey Kerr thinks they need to go back for one more lesson.
Kerr, a family physician in California, believes every doctor and caregiver has a responsibility to study all forms of medicine, and that includes medical marijuana.
"It's one of those situations where they have no idea about what they don't know," she says. "And why is it important? Because patients are using it."
Kerr and her colleagues at the Society of Cannabis Clinicians partnered up with The Medical Cannabis Institute to create a twelve-course curriculum intended to educate doctors, caregivers, patients and anyone else interested in learning about the practice of using cannabis as medicine.
The set of courses -- the Clinical Cannabinoid Medicine Curriculum -- is online, and it requires learning about much more than what type of strain is best for headaches.
Here's what the staff plans to teach:
History Of Cannabis As Medicine: A Timeline Through Current Drug Policy Issues
The Endocannabinoid System
Cannabis -- the Plant: A Phytocannabinoid Medicine
Pharmacology Of Cannabis & Physiologic Effects Of Phytocannabinoids
Delivery and Dosage of Cannabis Medicine
Clinical Practice I Cannabis Use for Pain
Clinical Practice II Insomnia, Glaucoma, and Immune Disorders
Clinical Practice III Movement Disorders & Neurodegenerative Diseases
Clinical Practice IV Mental Health Conditions and Potential Psychiatric Applications
Clinical Practice V Cancer and Palliative Care
Clinical Practice VI Cannabis Use Disorders and Precautions
Clinical Case Study Reviews
Created to "educate the practicing clinician on both the research and clinical practice aspects of the therapeutic use of cannabis," the curriculum has the potential to make doctor visits more comfortable for those curious about the benefits of medical cannabis, Kerr believes.
"Patients are coming in and are afraid to talk to you, to tell you they're using it, because they're scared you'll judge them or withhold other medicine," she says. "Doctors need to understand this medicine, when it's good and when it isn't."
Patients aren't the only ones afraid to have the conversation. According to Kerr, who also writes articles on medical topics beyond cannabis, she routinely gets feedback and comments on her published work. But when we she wrote about medical marijuana, "the silence was deafening," she says. "They (other physicians) are scared of it. They don't understand it."
Which is why Kerr and her colleagues hope the online option will be attractive. Discretion is still highly valued among those worried about what marijuana's stigma might do to their career. Although more states have legalized the medical use of cannabis in recent years, the substance is still very illegal in more than half the country.
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"They don't want to lose their reputation among their peers and their patients," Kerr says.
Although she understands the reputation as a "stoner doctor" that her counterparts are trying to avoid, Kerr doesn't view this characterization as an excuse when it comes to compromising a full understanding of the human body.
"Just like they have a responsibility to understand the immune system, I believe they have a responsibility to learn about the endocannabinoid system." she says. "But we can't go to the be-all-end-all. It's just another system doctors need to know about."
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