Nfld. & Labrador

Doctors want to talk pot dangers with patients

N.L.'s medical association has launched a campaign in the hopes of increasing doctor-patient conversations around cannabis.

NLMA launches social media and internet campaign to spread the word

Dr. Lynn Dwyer is a past president of the NLMA, and a family physician in St. John's. (CBC)

Doctors across Newfoundland and Labrador are encouraging their patients to talk about cannabis, to clear the air about common misconceptions and provide information about the now-legalized drug.

To that end, the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association (NLMA) has launched a social media and internet campaign, hoping to create more conversations about cannabis in doctor's offices.

"We know there are a lot of our patients who are already using marijuana, and just because the drug has now been legalized, doesn't mean that it's safe," said Dr. Lynn Dwyer, a family physician in St. John's and a member of the NLMA's board of directors.

"It is a challenging conversation to have."

Dwyer said part of that challenge comes from the stigma of patients not wanting to discuss a drug that has been, up until now, illegal. But on the physician side, Dwyer said the lack of scientific studies and trials with cannabis mean doctors don't have a lot of facts at their fingertips.

"We really don't have that science background to be able to base our decisions on," she said.

More education, less prescriptions

The NLMA hasn't taken an official position, for or against, legalization. Instead, Dwyer said they are urging both the provincial and federal governments to emphasize harm reduction, and boost education.

The NLMA also continues to support the Canadian Medical Association's stance that physicians not feel obligated to prescribe medical marijuana to patients, again due to the lack of sufficient clinical trials and scientific evidence.

"More research has to be done into the indications and effects of medical cannabis," said Dr. David Flusk, an anesthesiologist in St. John's, who  echoed Dwyer's call for more scientific trials.

Marijuana is now legal, so the NLMA worries that patients denied a prescription will now self medicate. (Gosia Wozniacka/The Associated Press)

"The studies done to date still leave many questions unanswered."

Flusk said with health information at everyone's fingertips thanks to the internet, more patients than ever feel they should be more engaged in making decisions around their health.

But he worries the right information isn't out there, as people denied prescriptions can now contemplate self-medication with legalized pot.

"How accurate is the information available? And is this leading to patients making the wrong decisions about their health?" he told CBC Radio's Central Morning Show.

With files from the St. John's and Central Morning Shows

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