Thirty-three Canadian cancer survivors were interviewed for a new study published in Cancer Medicine that sought to uncover the motivating factors influencing their decisions to medicate with, or abstain from, medical cannabis.
The individuals were recruited via social media and spanned the country. During telephone interviews with the researchers, they described their experiences.
For those that chose to add medical cannabis to their therapy, their reasons included viewing cannabis as natural alternative medicine, that it reduced the number of prescription drugs they were required to take, and that safer products had become available with the legalization of recreational cannabis.
Support from physicians and family and friends also played an important role in shaping their decisions.
Those who chose to abstain from the plant raised concerns about a lack of scientific evidence for its efficacy and the possibility of developing dependency issues. Some said that disapproval from their physician was also a barrier to access.
In August, a study published in The Journal of Primary Care & Community Health found that few patients view their primary physician as a good source of information when it comes to medical cannabis.
A survey of a thousand primary care patients in Vermont found that though nearly half of respondents had used cannabis in the past year, less than 20 per cent felt their doctor were sufficiently knowledgeable on the subject.
Medical cannabis has been legal in the state for 16 years and recreational cannabis was legalized in 2018.
“Primary care providers need to be knowledgeable about cannabinoids to best support patient care,” the study concluded. “In addition, with a significant number of patients reporting cannabinoids helpful for medical conditions common in primary care, it is important that research continue to identify the potential benefits and harms of cannabis.”