Blinded by Bias? Medicine’s old guard criticize people who turn to medical cannabis for help with mental health. But cannabis experts are challenging this old school “wisdom”

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A rather telling report in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal says people are turning to medical cannabis (MC) to treat mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

They’re doing so because standard meds such as Zoloft and Paxil come with significant side effects such as weight gain and sexual dysfunction, they don’t always work, or they make the conditon worse.

Sean Gatten, for example, tried several antidepressants to treat his anxiety but he gained weight, sometimes had difficulty sleeping, and one drug seemed to make his anxiety worse.

So he quit his meds and turned to a combination of CBD & THC with the result that, he says, “… helps calm me down. It provides a sense of relief and helps me focus more.”

The early research backs him up. The WSJ cites a number of studies that say MC helps the majority of people who use it for chronic pain, depression, anxiety, and insomnia.

Nevertheless, there’s pushback against MC from groups like the American Psychiatric Association. In 2019, for example, they issued a statement (prior to the a/m pro-MC studies being published) saying there’s “no current scientific evidence that cannabis is in any way beneficial for the treatment of any psychiatric disorder.”

But those sweeping pronouncements are no longer going unchallenged from within the profession. For instance, cannabis expert Peter Grinspoon who teaches at the Harvard Medical School and is an internist at Mass. General Hospital, fired off a series of tweets yesterday suggesting the APA may be blinded by their own bias:

But there’s more at play than just turf wars: growing criticism, also from within the profession, says there’s also a competence problem – that most doctors don’t know much about medicinal cannabis. For instance, one authoritative report found that only 9% of US medical schools teach it, a scant 10% of docs feel qualified to prescribe it, and just 35% feel qualified to even answer a question about it.

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