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Screening and managing cannabis use: comparing GP’s and nurses’ knowledge, beliefs, and behavior

Melissa M Norberg1*, Peter Gates1, Paul Dillon1, David J Kavanagh2, Ramesh Manocha3 and Jan Copeland1

Author Affiliations

1 National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre, UNSW, PO Box 684, Randwick, NSW, 2031, Australia

2 School of Psychology and Counselling, Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, Queensland University of Technology, Kelvin Grove, QLD, 4059, Australia

3 Department of Psychiatry, Sydney Medical School, Level 5 Building 36, Royal North Shore Hospital, St Leonards, NSW, 2065, Australia

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Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy 2012, 7:31  doi:10.1186/1747-597X-7-31

Published: 24 July 2012



General practitioners (GPs) and nurses are ideally placed to address the significant unmet demand for the treatment of cannabis-related problems given the numbers of people who regularly seek their care. The aim of this study was to evaluate differences between GPs and nurses’ perceived knowledge, beliefs, and behaviors toward cannabis use and its screening and management.


This study involved 161 nurses and 503 GPs who completed a survey distributed via conference satchels to delegates of Healthed seminars focused on topics relevant to women and children’s health. Differences between GPs and nurses were analyzed using χ2- tests and two-sample t-tests, while logistic regression examined predictors of service provision.


GPs were more likely than nurses to have engaged in cannabis-related service provision, but also more frequently reported barriers related to time, interest, and having more important issues to address. Nurses reported less knowledge, skills, and role legitimacy. Perceived screening skills predicted screening and referral to alcohol and other drug (AOD) services, while knowing a regular user increased the likelihood of referrals only.


Approaches to increase cannabis-related screening and intervention may be improved by involving nurses, and by leveraging the relationship between nurses and doctors, in primary care.

Cannabis; Marijuana abuse; Diagnosis; Therapeutics; Primary health care; Attitude