Conference Coverage

The case for being open-minded about medical marijuana



– Even if you do not believe in medical cannabis, be open to patients who ask you if it might benefit them, Kevin P. Hill, MD, advised.

“Being willing to talk to your patient about it is important,” said Dr. Hill, of the division of addiction psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, said at an annual psychopharmacology update held by the Nevada Psychiatric Association. “Because what will happen is, they’ll say, ‘Look. I need medical marijuana to treat my anxiety.’ Then you can say, ‘Well, I have treatments that work for anxiety that we haven’t tried.’ Maybe you can get them into treatment because of that conversation.”

In his opinion, the appropriate candidate for medical cannabis is someone with a debilitating condition who has failed multiple first- and second-line treatments. “The policy of medical cannabis is ahead of the science,” he noted. “It’s not a good place to be, but now the question becomes: How do we give people what they want while addressing the risks? I think we need to do a better job of that. We can provide a service to patients and colleagues by being informed and thoughtful on the topic.”

Food and Drug Administration–approved cannabinoids to date are dronabinol (Marinol) and nabilone (Cesamet). These agents are approved for nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy and for appetite stimulation in wasting illnesses such as AIDS. “Your patients may come to you and say, ‘I think I need medical cannabis for condition X,’ ” said Dr. Hill, who authored the book “Marijuana: The Unbiased Truth About the World’s Most Popular Weed” (Center City, Minn.: Hazelden Publishing, 2015). “Maybe the cannabis plant can outperform the two approved agents that we have. I think we have to be open to that possibility. Maybe they offer some things that dronabinol and nabilone don’t.”


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