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Marijuana as Antiemetic Medicine:

A Survey of Oncologists' Experiences and Attitudes

by Richard Doblin and Mark A. R. Kleiman

Abstract: A random-sample anonymous survey of the members of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) was conducted in the spring of 1990 measuring the attitudes and experiences of American oncologists concerning the antiemetic use of marijuana in cancer chemotherapy patients. The survey was mailed to about one-third (N = 2430) of all U.S.-based ASCO members and yielded a response rate of 43% (1035). More than 44% of the respondents report recommending the (illegal) use of marijuana for the control of emesis to at least one cancer chemotherapy patient. Almost half (48%) would prescribe marijuana to some of their patients if it were legal. As a group, respondents considered (smoked) marijuana to be somewhat more effective than the legally available (oral) synthetic THC (Marinol) and roughly as safe. Of the respondents who expressed an opinion, a majority (54%) thought marijuana should be available by prescription.

These results bear on the question of whether marijuana has a "currently accepted medical use," an issue in an ongoing administrative and legal dispute concerning whether marijuana in smoked form should be available by prescription along with synthetic THC in oral form. This survey demonstrates that oncologists' experience with the medical use of marijuana is more extensive, and their opinions of it more favorable, than the regulatory authorities appear to have believed.


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