Health systems should screen patients for cannabis, researchers say

Similar to how clinicians routinely ask patients about their alcohol intake, UCLA researchers said health systems should also assess patients' cannabis use.

Few health systems currently screen for cannabis use despite the drug's potential health effects, according to a UCLA-led study JAMA published June 5. 

The researchers evaluated more than 175,000 EHRs to find the prevalence of screening for cannabis among patients who recently had an annual visit at UCLA Health's primary care clinics. About three-fourths of patients completed the screening, and cannabis use was reported by 17% of patients.  

Most of the patients who reported using the drug said they use it for a specific health symptom, including stress and pain. Because of the changing legal status of cannabis and the risk of cannabis use disorder, the researchers recommended more health systems invest in cannabis screenings that detail which symptoms the drug is used for. 

"Given the high rates of cannabis use and medical cannabis use that we found in this large urban health care system, it is essential that healthcare systems implement routine screening of all primary care patients," the researchers said in conclusion.

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