This lack of provision of education in medical school means the vast majority of physicians have no professional basis to assess the medical utility of cannabis.
You might already know that the ECS is a bodily system made of receptors located throughout the body and that it works with all other systems to maintain homeostasis, or optimal functionality.
But did you know that this vital system isn’t covered in medical school despite the fact that studies worldwide have been articulating its prowess since 1992?
The medical education area is in many ways a void, or near zero when it comes to teaching prospective physicians about cannabis, cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system. Cannabis has been used and recognized as an analgesic for over 4,000 years. It is now seen as one of the tools for dealing with the opiate epidemic, at least by science but not by law.
The lack of education from grade school through grad school and medical school regarding cannabis, cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is directly a result of bad policy. Up and down this is due to the government dealing with many psychoactive substances on a criminal justice basis not as medicine and not following the science.
According to Dr. Ethan Russo, board-certified neurologist and psychopharmacology researcher, the common response is that they’d have to remove something else from the curriculum to make room for it.
According to Dr. Russo, “The medical curriculum is just jam-packed. I went to med school back in the ‘70s, and even at that point there was just no slack in the schedule. What one has to cram into particularly the first couple years of basic science, is rather astounding. And now there’s been an additional 40 years of scientific discovery that also has to be incorporated. Administrators are always going to be defensive about that. The typical response is, ‘What will we eliminate?’ However, that ignores the scientific importance of this system and its fundamental role in regulating physiology in every aspect.”
One would hope that the response to realizing there is a vital bodily system missing from medical school curriculum would be something thoughtful, like, “This system works with all of the other bodily systems and is essential to maintaining health in the body—maybe it’s time to reassess and reorganize.”
But, alas, the party-line solution is actually to just not teach another piece of medicine, which would remove it from practice. It’s as if medicine goes into a tool belt, and rather than reconfiguring a more suitable tool belt when full—they’d instead just toss aside an irreplaceable tool.
When asked why the ECS isn’t being taught in medical schools, another common response was that there are presently very few medications that interact with it—but how will there ever be if the medical community doesn’t even regard it in the first place? And why does it matter, anyways—do doctors only need to know about bodily systems that can be treated via the pharmaceutical industry? (And even the answer there is a plutocratic ‘yes,’ then do the available synthetic cannabinoids not count?)
These are apparently not questions that are often discussed in the medical community. The basic consensus seems to be that though medical students ought to be taught about all illnesses—not just those that there are presently pharmaceuticals for—that’s simply not how it works.
Another factor is, of course, the federally-illegal status of the plant that works so adeptly with the ECS; still holding its ancient and never-been-true title of ”Schedule I–Drug with no currently accepted medical use.” But since the ECS generally functions without the help of cannabis (thanks to our naturally occurring endogenous cannabinoids), one wonders why this is show-stoppingly relevant—again, shouldn’t doctors need to know about bodily systems that don’t already have viable medications? Isn’t that all the more reason they should be trained in what we do know about the ECS, so they may help patients keep the vulnerable system unharmed?
This next revelation will not surprise you: According to Russo, stigma around cannabis and a lack of funding as a result also appear to play a role in this reckless and willful knowledge gap, “One has to imagine that a prejudice against cannabis, fear of cannabis, and lack of funding is spilling over into a pejorative effect on education about the endocannabinoid system.”
Dr. Ethan Russo, provides some insight into this question.
“There are more cannabinoid receptors in the brain than there are for all the neurotransmitters put together,” he says. The implication is simple and important. The endocannabinoid system has the potential to have a powerful impact on the body. It’s a significant part of the makeup of every human being, and it can have a substantial effect on our health. There is, therefore, no good medical reason not to teach up and coming doctors about its capabilities.
And yet, this isn’t happening. The endocannabinoid system is presently not a part of the medical school curriculum. It’s just not something doctors are learning about, and thus they aren’t taking advantage of the potential it has to improve the lives of their patients.
Medical schools may be wary about wading into such a controversial and politically charged issue. But they don’t need to take a stand on medical marijuana to communicate what is known about it.
- Zenpype.com is an educational website dedicated to shedding the light on many sides of medical and recreational cannabis. Aside from informing people about cannabis, we also provide cannabis seeds and CBD products. Readers who show their support with purchasing, help us keep doing this. Thank you for your support and for helping us improve!