An anonymous survey, carried out by theIrish Medical Times (IMT), revealed that more than half (54%) of doctors are in favor of the decriminalization of small quantities of drugs for personal use.
While 95% of them believe that drug use has a negative impact on the health and well-being of their patients, 60% say that users should receive treatment within the framework of the health system, instead to be criminalized.
Most respondents named alcohol as the most harmful drug (43%), followed by cocaine (31%). More than a third of those surveyed said their family had suffered harm from drug use, with alcohol accounting for 63% of those cases.
The survey was conducted among a representative sample of 89 doctors, including general practitioners and specialist consultants, in order to collect their personal opinions on medical cannabis and drug use in general. Respondents were asked to give their College of Physicians number to prove they were licensed doctors.
Terence Cosgrave, editor of IMT, said that until now doctors had never been questioned in this way about their personal opinion on drugs.
“Our results show that while some establishment doctors are using their position of power to oppose cannabis legalization, the medical profession as a whole is actually taking a much more nuanced and balanced view,” said he declared to CannabisHealth.
“There is a strong push to support decriminalization, especially for things like cannabis. »
“Some people objected to the idea of giving out their College of Physicians number, but we didn’t change the rules. We wanted people to come forward, to see how many people were going to say, “I actually use cannabis and I’m proud of it.”
5% of doctors regularly use cannabis
In total, 37% of doctors surveyed admitted to having tried cannabis, with 8% declaring that they currently use it and 5% that use it regularly.
Mr. Cosgrave continues: “We found that 5% of physicians regularly use cannabis. I would say it’s much more than that, but they obviously don’t want to admit it because it would be frowned upon by their colleagues”.
The survey was advertised in the digital and print editions of IMT and, although the sample size is relatively small, Cosgrave says it is representative and represents a reasonable percentage of the Irish medical profession.
“As this is a small sample, I don’t consider this to be a definitive point of view, but it does show things that would have been denied before,” he added.
“If we spoke to certain medical representatives, they would tell us that no doctor would use cannabis and that if they did, they should be disbarred. It is simply not true. Doctors use cannabis, but also other drugs”.
Broad support for access to medical cannabis
When it comes to the medical use of cannabis, respondents overwhelmingly support legal access (80%), with 56% saying they would prescribe it. The most common conditions they would prescribe it for are pain relief, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, cancer, anxiety and depression.
The Medical Cannabis Access Program (Medical Cannabis Access Program, MCAP) recruited its first patients in Ireland in 2021, but to date only around 40 have been able to access cannabis through this channel. Prescriptions are limited to specific products for a number of conditions, including intractable nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, severe treatment-resistant epilepsy and spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis (MS).
According to Mr Cosgrave, Irish doctors are generally in favor of the wider distribution of cannabis for medical purposes.
“The numbers absolutely back that up,” he said.
We gave them the opportunity to add comments and one doctor said, “Don’t medicalize this product, just allow people to buy it if they need it.” I think it’s very representative.
Is Ireland heading for reform?
These findings come as a citizens’ assembly on drug use is underway in Ireland. Made up of 99 members of the public, it will make recommendations to the Houses of the Oireachtas on the country’s drug policy.
After just two assembly meetings, experts recently told Cannabis Health that decriminalizing all drugs for personal use would likely be a key recommendation. Mr. Cosgrave seems to agree.
He said: “Cannabis is everywhere in Ireland, as is cocaine. How to deal with this? The old conservative medical establishment says that everything must be banned, that the law must be strictly enforced. But the more progressive healthcare professionals – and I would say that’s the case with a fair number of people in our survey, and in general they would say to empower people to make their own decisions” .
Brendan Minish, campaigner and advocate for drug reform in Ireland, said the results of the survey were “positive”, but there were still issues to be addressed regarding stigma within the medical establishment Irish.
“I wonder to what extent this represents a recent change of opinion or rather if someone has finally asked doctors what they think anonymously so that they can answer honestly without risking their careers and be stigmatized by their peers,” he said.