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Ask A Doctor: Can I Trust That My Physician Won’t Judge My Marijuana Use?

By Thomas Green, MD, The Fresh Toast on

Published in Cannabis Daily

When asked by friends and patients who express concerns about their physicians, I tell them that if they cannot trust their physician with personal information, they need to change physicians if possible.

As many patients fill out their intake forms for their health care providers, some feel a concern that their honesty about aspects of their lifestyle may cause them to receive prejudiced healthcare. Part of being a great physician or health care provider is the ability to be non-judgmental about patients and their lifestyle choices. Trust is essential to care.

The patient must trust the doctor with personal information in order for the physician to give the best advice for that particular patient. This requires the physician or other health care provider to show the patient that they have an open mind and the patient to trust the provider.

But we must realize that doctors are people with their own biases based upon their upbringing, world experience and personality.

When asked by friends and patients who express concerns about their physicians, I tell them that if they cannot trust their physician with personal information, they need to change physicians if possible.

So how do we navigate the disclosure of cannabis or any recreational drug use in the health care setting? We should begin by thinking about both explicit and implicit bias.

 

Explicit bias refers to one’s awareness of their pre-exisiting beliefs and makes decisions based upon them. These biases are often easily identified by others.

Implicit bias is an unconscious belief or feeling which can also affect decision making without the person being aware if their influence.

When there’s a conflict between a person’s explicit and implicit attitudes-for example “people say they are not prejudiced but give subtle signs that they are, for example-those on the receiving end may be anxious and confused.”¹

“The individual words that physicians use can be a signal of implicit bias. Words such as “we”, “ours” or “us” can be used by people in power over those of lesser power. This is seen using language such as, We’re going to take our medicine, right?”²

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