For the first time, that I am aware of, Pennsylvania is offering an accredited continuing medical education (CME) course that includes information about cannabis as an option for medical treatment. The course is not dedicated solely to the medical use of cannabis, but it is a start.
As you know, PA approved the growing, dispensing and use of medical cannabis for certain medical conditions and it went into effect earlier this year. However, since its implementation, the only education available has been focused toward growers, handlers, dispensaries and providers. The education opportunities were geared toward the new state regulations and proper certification of these individuals and businesses. Various schools and organizations offer education for those doctors that want to become cannabis providers, but nothing has been available for the rest of the practicing physicians across the state. Until now!
The CME course that I am referring to is offered by InforMed and is titled “Best Practices For Opioid Prescribing In Chronic Pain”. Yes, it is a course about opioid prescribing practices, but includes a section that reviews the many pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic approaches that are available for treating painful conditions. This section goes on to state that such options are appropriate and should be tried, or at least considered, before an opioid is prescribed. Included in these “options” is cannabis.
The course describes the various forms of treatment and breaks them down into five basic pain-management approaches: cognitive-behavioral, rehabilitative, complementary/alternative, and pharmacotherapy. According to the approaches, cannabis falls under non-opioid pharmacotherapy with such drugs as acetaminophen, NSAIDS, topical agents, antidepressants and anticonvulsants. It explains how cannabis has been used for centuries, the mechanisms of action, and the treatment options associated with it.
It is a victory, a small one, but a victory none the less. Pennsylvania is not only recognizing cannabis as a viable non-opioid option for the treatment of pain but makes suggestion of its use in the treatment of other conditions. We are finally moving forward as a society and recognizing the benefits of cannabis in the medical setting!