Psychologists should study uses of marijuana

By Andrew W. Kane, Ph.D.
May 27, 2018



Medical marijuanaI am not aware of any ethical issues for psychologists that have arisen in reports on the increased legalization or medical use of marijuana.

However, with medical marijuana legal in 29 states and the District of Columbia, I feel that psychologists in those jurisdictions have an ethical duty to be familiar with medical marijuana, including potential uses to address problems their patients may have with numerous medical issues.

WebMD is one good source of information, including a recent posting on the use of marijuana in pain management (https://www.webmd.com/pain-management/features/medical-marijuana-uses). For most people, marijuana increases appetite, decreases nausea, reduces falling, improves sleep, decreases depression, decreases pain and has other benefits.

For a psychologist to have a patient with any of the problems that may be helped by medical marijuana, it strikes me as unethical for the psychologist not to discuss medical marijuana as one alternative – just as we would discuss other medical treatments that may be helpful.

A given patient could spend months or years in psychological treatment if the psychologist does not assess for potential benefits from medical marijuana – or any other medication that might be helpful. Marijuana (cannabis) was a patent medication available over the counter until 1937 in the United States.

Cannabidiol (CBD) has been shown repeatedly to reduce spasms in children and is showing promise in reducing symptoms of epilepsy. All 50 states permit the prescribing of CBD for seizures in children and, possibly, for other seizure disorders for children or adults.

For a lot of information about the history of marijuana as medicine, one can download a free copy of by far the best book on the subject, Licit and Illicit Drugs by Ed Brecher and the editors of Consumer Reports published in 1972 (http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/library/studies/cu/cumenu.htm).

While the Controlled Substances Act places any form of THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) in Schedule I, as having NO medical use, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) places synthetic THC (Marinol, dronabinol) in Schedule III, meaning that it can be prescribed by any physician for any medical purpose.

Every psychologist should watch the videos in which Sanjay Gupta, M.D., CNN’s medical expert, lauds the success of CBD in markedly reducing seizures in children. They’re on YouTube and could be found by searching for Dr. Gupta’s name.

One of the many good websites for information about marijuana/cannabis is https://www.thecannabist.co.

I believe psychologists have an ethical duty to be aware of the above and other websites that give current, accurate information about medical marijuana.
 
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Andrew W. Kane, Ph.D., is a clinical, consulting and forensic psychologist in Milwaukee, Wisc. He served on the Wisconsin State Citizens Council on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse in the 1970s (appointed by governors of both parties) and has read dozens of books and many hundreds of articles about marijuana/cannabis since 1970. He also served on the Wisconsin Psychological Association’s ethics committee for 10 years. His email is: awkane@sbcglobal.net

 

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