Stigma of Medical Marijuana May Inhibit Usage

Study finds public opinion surrounding medical marijuana may influence treatment decisions.

Study finds public opinion surrounding medical marijuana may influence treatment decisions.

Medical marijuana may one day fall under the umbrella of specialty pharmacy, but before that occurs there still remains a battle to remove the stigma faced by many patients prescribed it.

A study published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs evaluated California residents prescribed medical marijuana and the stigma associated with its use by the general public. The researchers found this stigma may cause under-treatment among patients who may benefit from medical marijuana use.

"It's sad, it really is. Most people seem to be misinformed, and this includes the lawmakers,” said a patient evaluated in the study. “They see it as black and white. Marijuana is bad. Drugs are bad. Yet, they have no problem drinking their scotch, smoking cigars. They have no idea how incredibly beneficial cannabis can be.”

Medical marijuana is currently legal in 23 states and the District of Columbia. Meanwhile, its use in California was legalized in 1996.

Medical marijuana has been deemed an effective treatment for the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, in addition to treating migraines, depression, asthma, and chronic pain. The study included 18 participants to determine how the stigma attached to medical marijuana impacts their health care, in addition to how the stigma affects their day-to-day life.

"There was obviously that kind of negative stigma of using marijuana that I'd be looked upon as kind of an addict or a drug user more than a patient," said one of the participants in the study.

Most of the patients indicated feelings of being labeled a stoner who is taking advantage of the law. Furthermore, many patients said they are wary of discussing medical marijuana treatment with primary health care providers due to the stigmatization they feel.

It was also typical for patients to hide using marijuana from family and friends.

"This study underscores the need for further research as well as updating the training and education of physicians and healthcare providers in order to expand the knowledge and skill base as it relates to medical marijuana treatment," the researchers wrote in the study. "As it becomes a viable treatment option for more and more patients across the United States, studies like these will be instrumental in ensuring that medical marijuana meets its full therapeutic potential."