Dear Doctors: Even if you Disapprove, You Need to Educate Yourself

Dear Doctors,

I understand. Marijuana, for all that it has been legalized, is still a controversial topic when it comes to its uses in medicine. It wasn’t that long ago that medical professionals feared reprisal for prescribing it, either from government bodies, law enforcement, or insurance companies. Despite all the mounting evidence suggesting its benefit in treating various conditions and its relative safety, it’s hard to overcome the conditioning of several years that viewed it as an illicit substance.

Even if you disagree with the use of marijuana, however, it is important that you educate yourself about it from reliable sources, and not just about the negatives either.

Why?

Because regardless of how you feel about it, I guarantee that you have patients who either use it or are exposed to it regularly. Ignoring for the moment the problems surrounding making your disapproval obvious making it more difficult for your patients to discuss their health, use, symptoms of concern, and so on; not being educated about marijuana on a medical level puts your patients at risk.

Even the safest medication comes with drug interactions and possible side effects. Even those medications that have been used for decades may cause allergic reactions.

By refusing to educate yourself on the issue you can’t properly fulfill your responsibility as a doctor and as a result you put your patients at risk.

I was reminded of this earlier this month after a follow up appointment with my doctor. I’ve been scheduled for a colonoscopy later this week. Luckily, for now, Ford’s proposal that sedation no longer be covered for colonoscopies has not gone through yet so at least this time I won’t be officially tortured. I say officially because if not for my own knowledge, my doctor’s lack of knowledge would very likely have resulted in my procedure being significantly more painful than it should be. Why?

Although the list of drugs interactions for marijuana is fairly light, it does have a pretty significant effect on sedation and anesthesia. Evidence suggests that it causes both to either be processed quicker or to be less effective overall. This means that people who use marijuana may wake up during surgery or require higher doses of sedation than are safe to fully get its effects. This means that users of medical marijuana may find themselves experiencing more significant levels of pain during procedures that require sedation.

For this reason, it is highly recommended that patients abstain from marijuana for at least 72 hours prior to procedures. For heavy users, they may require more time to reduce the levels in their bodies.

Was I informed of this by my doctor?

Nope.

For all that he made a point to reinforce the idea that “He’s the Doctor, and I’m the Patient,” at our first appointment, his lack of education on knowledge on a drug that is very commonly consumed by patients with IBDs regardless of whether it’s prescribed or not, once more put my health and wellbeing at risk.

Despite walking me through a procedure that I’ve had over a dozen times as though I was a child, not once did he bring up any possibility that I might want to avoid my meds to save myself pain. Why? I’m willing to bet it’s because he didn’t know.

You don’t get to act like patients should avoid familiarizing themselves with medicine, when not doing so consistently puts them at risk. You don’t get to act high and mighty on a subject, when its obvious you haven’t even done the most basic research into what you need to know to keep us safe.

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Dear Doctors: Even if you Disapprove, You Need to Educate Yourself
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