Marijuana has been used for its medical purposes for more than 3000 years. However, knowledge, attitudes and beliefs toward benefits and risks of medical marijuana use have changed considerably over the past several decades, particularly with evidence of its value for several chronic illnesses and related symptoms. With growing support for legalization, more clients are interested in exploring medical marijuana use leaving social workers open to questions from their clients about use and efficacy of the substance. The aims of this study are to assess the knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs about medical marijuana among graduate social work students.
This study examined knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs of graduate social work students at a large public, northeastern university in the United States through a voluntary electronic survey. Respondent characteristics were described using frequencies and percentages for categorical variables and means, medians and standard deviations for continuous variables. Chi square tests were conducted for categorical variables. The study sample included 230 students who responded to the survey.
All respondents were graduate social work students. Findings show a strong belief in the value of medical marijuana among the students with limited reliance on formal sources of information. Students reported positive beliefs about the use of medical marijuana for conditions such as chronic pain (97.4%), cancer (97.0%), terminal illness (91.7%), insomnia (85.7%), and mental health conditions (84.3%). Despite this, 63.3% (n=145) of the students felt unable to answer patient/client questions about its use. Overwhelmingly, the students received their information about medical marijuana from informal sources, particularly if a friend(s) used marijuana (χ2(1, N=230) =6.621, p = 0.010) or family member(s) used (χ2(1, N=230) =4.922, p = 0.027).
Conclusions and Implications
This study provides evidence of the need for education and training of social work students about medical marijuana. There is an evident lack of preparedness among social work students to address the needs of their clients around medical marijuana, despite students’ relatively high levels of acceptance of medical marijuana for many chronic illnesses and symptoms of those illnesses. The findings highlight the need for curriculum designed around the use of medical marijuana to help students be better prepared to work with clients who may use the substance.