HomeNewsPalliative Care: More Medical Cannabis Training Needed

Palliative Care: More Medical Cannabis Training Needed

Medical cannabis is being increasingly considered in the USA as a tool in palliative care, but a recent survey indicates a majority of hospice and palliative medicine (HPM) fellows still feel insufficiently informed.

Medicinal cannabis has been used for the palliation of pain, nausea, vomiting, anorexia, and other symptoms. Palliation refers to the relief of symptoms and suffering caused by cancer and other life-threatening diseases. While palliation helps a patient feel more comfortable and improves quality of life, it does not offer a cure. The relief palliation can provide not only benefits the patient, but also their family and friends; reducing trauma associated with seeing their loved ones otherwise suffer more.

Researchers from several cancer research and medical centers in the USA set out to determine whether training in hospice and palliative medicine prepared fellows to provide advice to patients about medical cannabis, and determine their knowledge of its effectiveness.

Responses from 123 fellows found:

  • 65% reported receiving formal training regarding medical cannabis
  • 57% reported discussing medical cannabis with more than five patients
  • 23% recommended it to more than five patients in the preceding year
  • But just 19% felt informed enough to issue recommendations.

In terms of effectiveness, the respondents rated cannabis as equally or more effective than conventional treatments for the following symptoms:

  • Anorexia/cachexia (63%)
  • Nausea/vomiting (43%)
  • Pain (25%)
  • Neuropathic pain (21%).

Based on the study extract, symptoms such as anxiety and sleep were not included in the questionnaire.

Among the researchers’ conclusions:

“These results suggest both a need for expanded high-quality evidence for medical cannabis in palliative care and for improved formal education for HPM fellows.”

The study was published last month in Journal of Pain and Symptom Management.

The use of medicinal cannabis by palliative patients holds significant promise. A peer-reviewed study published in 2018 indicated 95.9% of participants with cancer surveyed reported an improvement in their condition through its use. More than half of the patients in that study had stage 4 (advanced/incurable) cancer. The study’s authors concluded that cannabis as a palliative treatment for cancer patients was a well-tolerated, effective and safe option.

Steven Gothrinet
Steven Gothrinet has been part of the Hemp Gazette in-house reporting team since 2015. Steven's broad interest in cannabis was initially fueled by the realisation of industrial hemp's versatility across multiple sectors. You can contact Steve here.

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