AURORA, Colo. – In the first study
of its kind, University
of Colorado School of Medicine students expressed support for the legal use
of marijuana, including for physical and mental health reasons. They also
believe more research is needed to ascertain what risk could be involved in
using the drug. These were some of the findings of a study led by Michael Chan,
a recent graduate of the CU Anschutz Medical
Colorado students viewed the
legalization of marijuana favorably, medicinal or otherwise, and generally felt
that the medical use of marijuana is acceptable in the treatment of conditions
approved by the Colorado Medical Marijuana Registry. Nearly half (49 percent)
felt that it had significant physical health benefits and 37 percent believed
it had mental health benefits. This contrasts with other studies, which found
that most Colorado family physicians would only recommend marijuana for
patients who suffer from pain or cancer and that only 27 percent of physicians
thought it had significant physical health benefits.
The study, “Colorado Medical
Students’ Attitudes and Beliefs about Marijuana,” was published today in the Journal
of General Internal Medicine by Springer. It investigated the attitudes of
medical students in Colorado, a state that has long been at the forefront of
marijuana legal reforms.
“Despite strong support for
marijuana legal reform, students expressed hesitancy to recommend it
themselves, suggesting that medical students may not believe that there is
enough data to safely recommend its use to patients and/or may not feel
sufficiently trained to prescribe it,” said Chan, now a resident at the
University of Texas Health Science Center.
These reforms have seen the
decriminalization of marijuana on many fronts in recent years. In Colorado, it
is legal for adults to use it for medicinal and recreational purposes.
Previous studies have shown
that opinions vary among physicians about the value of prescribing marijuana.
To add further insights into the matter, Chan’s team set out to find out what
medical students at the CU School of Medicine at the Anschutz Medical Campus
thought about the drug’s use. In all, 236 of the 624 students contacted by
e-mail completed the survey.
Students who grew up in
Colorado were more in favor of medical marijuana than those who did not grow up
there. This was also true for the 127 students who reported having used
marijuana before. This finding is in line with previous studies showing that
people with histories of substance use, including marijuana, believe the risk
of adverse effects is relatively low.
The students were nearly
unanimous (97 percent) in calling for further research into the medical
usefulness of marijuana. Most expressed concern about possible physical (68
percent) and mental (77 percent) consequences, while 88 percent thought it
could be addictive.
Chan and co-author Dan
Matlock are now working to study how students are being educated about medical
marijuana and its potential for health or harm.
“Clearly, medical students
have a need for excellent education on marijuana,” said Matlock, MD, MPH, and
associate professor of geriatrics at the CU School of Medicine. “There’s a lot
we don’t know and, medically, there is so little data.”
Although legal under
state law, marijuana is still a schedule 1 substance that is illegal under