Research recently published in Journal of Psychoactive Drugs (Routledge) examines the experiences of California residents who have been prescribed medical marijuana and the stigma they experience from public opinion. The findings indicate that the stigma of using medical marijuana may contribute to the under-treatment of those who might benefit from medical marijuana.
Medical marijuana -- a controversial topic in recent years -- is now legal in 23 US states, the District of Columbia, and has been legal in the state of California since 1996. It has been noted scientifically as a viable form of treatment for medical complications like migraines, depression, chemotherapy and radiation treatment effects, chronic pain and asthma.
Using interview research with 18 participants, a team of American researchers were able to better understand how patients handle this stigma and how it affects health care as well as 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," explained a participant. Almost every patient mentioned being labeled a stoner looking to take advantage of the law. Many patients felt uncomfortable discussing the matter with their primary health care providers because of embarrassment. A major norm among all of the patients is concealing their marijuana usage from family and close friends.
"It's sad, it really is," said one patient. "Most people seem to be misinformed, and this includes the lawmakers. 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," said a participant.
"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," wrote the researchers. "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."
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