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  • PTJ Perspective: PT Education on Medical Marijuana Highly Recommended

    Medical marijuana is no longer a novelty: In fact, physical therapists (PTs) in half the United States may be treating patients who use the drug, says Charles D. Ciccone, PT, PhD, FAPTA, in a recent "Perspective" column published in Physical Therapy (PTJ), APTA's science journal.

    The growing prevalence of medical marijuana means that PTs should be aware of the marijuana options available to their patients, potential benefits for certain conditions, and possible adverse effects on “cognition, coordination, balance, and cardiovascular and pulmonary function,” Ciccone writes.

    The "Perspectives" article outlines methods of consumption (each has "benefits and drawbacks," Ciccone writes), the differences between THC and cannabidiol, the drug's positive effects on certain conditions, and links to possible negative effects, such as increased risk of stroke, myocardial infarction, and falls. Ciccone writes that it would be “unwise” for a PT to advise a patient on the use of marijuana; patients should always be referred to their physician for a consultation. But, he notes, “Patients and their caregivers may approach physical therapists with questions about medical marijuana,” so PTs should educate themselves about its potential effects on patient function.

    Ciccone also writes about current barriers to research that could make a stronger case for or against the use of medical marijuana for particular conditions, not the least of which are federal regulations that aren't always sympatico with state laws. While some states may allow access to it, marijuana’s legal classification (in plant form) as a class I controlled substance (highest abuse potential) clouds the issue, making it difficult to conduct well-designed randomized controlled trials on its potential benefits, Ciccone observes. And despite pleas from the medical community, the FDA refuses to reclassify it—even though synthetic compounds are classified at a lower risk.

    While still controversial, “medical marijuana continues to gain acceptance” for treating a variety of disorders, Ciccone concludes. While more research clearly needs to conducted, “clinicians must be aware of the potential side effects of medical marijuana” and “should be able to educate their patients about the current status of medical marijuana” and refer them to their physicians for more information.

    Note: the PTJ article access process has changed. To view a PTJ article:

    • Go to https://academic.oup.com/ptj
    • Click on Sign In (righthand top of page)
    • Click on “Sign in via society site” (do NOT use Oxford Academic account)
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    • Click on “Click here to continue” to return to PTJ’s main page
    • Use the search, or navigate to desired article

    If you already are logged in at apta.org and want to go to PTJ, you can click on “PTJ” under the News and Publications tab, but you will still need to login again at the PTJ website to access articles.


    • My dream as a soon to be Physical Therapist Assistant from MI, is to develop a partnership/ co-ownership of my own practice. Where a PT could allow for direct access to treatment as well as prescribe the medical marijuana. The set up would be similar to an oxygen bar. The patient would come in and then first be treated with Marijuana then afterwards continue with therapeutic exercise so they can preform without pain.

      Posted by Cassandra on 3/11/2017 8:36 AM

    • As a Coloradan, I see that PTs definitely need to be educated on the use of medical marijuana. This issue is definitely pro versus con. It is very concerning that the public has had the ability to determine a substance is medicine by a majority vote. We need more research and I'm glad to see this research process opening up more everyday.

      Posted by Mike Pascoe -> AJX\=J on 3/13/2017 4:16 PM

    • Hello I’m a current college student that is pursuing my own PT career. I️ think your article is very educational and moving and I️ myself had the thought of doing this, but did not know it was a thing. I️ would love to potentially work with you or someone of your magnitude that understands the same topics I️ value, which are: physical therapy and the use of medical marijuana to help the healing process. I️ personally think it is an interesting and under rated topic that should be discussed and stressed more considering it can help in so many ways. From athletes, elders, and even kids and teenagers. Sure the dosages will be different according to the patient and their health records, but I️ think this is a great idea and innovating way that can transform the physical therapy industry as a whole and I️ am completely on board for it.

      Posted by Corbin Martin on 12/21/2017 3:34 AM

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