Dr. Haug Talks about “Cannabis and Mental Health—Whose Advice Can You Trust?” in a One-Hour Psych Files Podcast

Thursday, April 18, 2019
The training of “budtenders” (cannabis dispensary staff) to formulate advice when making sales to the public at dispensaries around the country was the topic of a recent Psych Files podcast featuring Nancy Haug, Ph.D., a PAU professor and associate chair of the PAU’s Psychology Department. In an interview with Psych Files host Michael A. Britt, Ph.D., Dr. Haug discussed the findings of research she and her students conducted among 55 budtenders in eight states and Washington, D.C.  
 
“The research revealed that although many dispensary staff are making recommendations consistent with current evidence, some are recommending cannabis that has either not been shown effective for, or could exacerbate, a patient's condition,” said Dr. Haug.
 
Close to half (45%) of the dispensaries’ staff had no formal health-related training the research showed. However, 94% indicated that they provide specific cannabis advice to patients. In terms of strains, dispensary staff trended toward recommendations of Indica for anxiety, chronic pain, insomnia, nightmares, and Tourette's syndrome. Additionally, they were more likely to recommend Indica and hybrid plants for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)/trauma and muscle spasms. They were less likely to recommend Indica for depression, and hybrid strains were most often recommended for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
 
To address the knowledge gap, Dr. Haug’s research lab is focused on the development of a standardized, scientific training program to better educate dispensary staff and health care providers on clinical implications.
 
During the interview, Dr. Haug recommended the National Institute on Drug Abuse for a summary of current scientific evidence to date on the efficacy of cannabis for different medical conditions. She further stated that she would not recommend cannabis as the first line of treatment for any mental health condition.
 
“I support the traditional route with a patient’s psychiatrist and doctor. If that is ineffective, then a low dose of cannabis might be advised given that CBD has been found to have neuro-protective effects against THC. This has to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, especially for those with a history of addiction,” she said.
 
Dr. Haug is also launching a study on vaping. “I am particularly interested in looking at use by adolescents and women, and exploring the reasons for using it,” such as a harm reduction method vs. smoking, or because it’s convenient and discreet. “We are starting to see kids vaping more frequently and becoming addicted at a fast rate. This needs to be studied.”
 

 

 
 
 
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