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J Gen Intern Med. 2020 Jan 2. doi: 10.1007/s11606-019-05612-4. [Epub ahead of print]

The Void in Clinician Counseling of Cannabis Use.

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Department of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, CO, USA.
Division of General Internal Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine, The Bronx, NY, USA.
Department of Psychiatry, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, CO, USA.


As more states legalize cannabis for medical use, people increasingly use cannabis to treat medical conditions. Well-documented harms of cannabis use include increased risk of fatal auto accidents, neurocognitive deficits, and increased risk of addiction. Observational data supports the use of cannabis for pain, nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy, and multiple sclerosis spasticity symptoms. Given potential harms versus benefits of cannabis use, how should physicians counsel patients regarding their cannabis use? This paper briefly reviews the evidence supporting medical cannabis use for pain. We consider cannabis use as a harm reduction strategy for pain management. We encourage routine, longitudinal assessments of cannabis use among patients. We discuss the commercialization of cannabis for financial gain, contributing to potent and addictive cannabis. We highlight the concerning phenomena of cannabis dispensary workers as proxy clinicians. Finally, we present three strategies to reduce public harms associated with potent cannabis use including required testing and reporting of tetrahydrocannabinol/cannabidiol concentrations, rigorous study of high-potency cannabis available for purchase in dispensaries across the USA, and large-scale efforts to measure cannabis consumption in medical records so prospective, longitudinal studies can be conducted to correlate consumption measures with medical and psychiatric outcomes.


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