Over the past few years, more and more Australians, and indeed many people worldwide, have had an increased interest in using cannabis for a medical purpose.
Whilst the rollout out of medical cannabis has been reasonably slow, every Australian state now allows the use of the drug for medical treatments in some form. Laws in every state differ, but patients are now starting to receive treatments from medical cannabis. Laws around the use of medical cannabis are strictly regulated in Australia.
Types of use for medical cannabis in Australia can help with nausea related to chemotherapy, pain relief, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy. Medical cannabis products come in a variety of forms, like vapour, solvent extracts, oils, and capsules. When using cannabis for a medical reason, it cannot be smoked.
What exactly is CBD?
Cannabidiol, typically known as CBD, is a chemical compound which is extracted from a cannabis plant. The well-known ‘high’ you get from smoking cannabis is not through CBD, as this compound has non psychoactive properties. It also will not give you other side effects of using cannabis, such as anxiety or paranoia.
The high when smoking marijuana will be from Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the psychoactive compound in cannabis. THC does have some health benefits, although CBD is most widely used for medical cannabis treatments. CBD oil is commonly used to treat medical problems or ailments, and has anti-inflammatory properties, as well as helping with seizures and anxiety.
What can medical cannabis help with?
Worldwide, we are seeing a shift in the use of medical cannabis, and a lot more research being done on its beneficial properties. Here are a few things medical cannabis may help with.
Non-cancer chronic pain
Inflammatory and neuropathic pain in patients are two of the most challenging types of pain to treat. More trials and research are really needed to get a better idea of how, or if cannabis is a good solution for this type of ailment. However, anti-inflammatory properties in a medical-grade cannabis oil may be able to help relieve pain in some cases.
CBD can also be used as an anxiolytic, i.e., a medication to help reduce anxiety. CBD has calming and relaxing properties which may be helpful for those people suffering from panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or an obsessive-compulsive disorder. It can also help to reduce stress, help you sleep better and relieve physical effects, such as an increased heart rate.
Used as an antiepileptic, medical cannabis can also help with epilepsy and other types of seizures. Research into the use of medical cannabis to treat epilepsy suggests that there could be a substantial reduction in the frequency of seizures and how severe they are.
There is some evidence to suggest the benefits of CBD in the treatment of childhood epilepsy, but more research needs to be done for epilepsy in adults. According to guidance from the TGA site , a study showed that in patients with paediatric-onset drug-resistant epilepsy, CBD products decreased the amount of seizure occurrences by 50% or more, in up to half of the patients. It also helps some patients get rid of their seizures all together.
Nausea and vomiting
Medical cannabis can also be used as an antiemetic, to help relieve symptoms of nausea and vomiting caused by cancer treatments. These are common side effects of chemotherapy. Studies have shown that treatments using THC may help improve symptoms further, as well as medications both combing THC and CBD, and using CBD alone.
In the past few years, new prescription medications have proved more effective for treating nausea and vomiting caused by cancer treatments, and so THC-rich and other medical cannabis products should be used as a last resort.
There are some amounts of evidence to suggest that medical cannabis products could prove effective for treating pain caused by multiple sclerosis, however studies have been inconsistent.
According to the TGA guidance mentioned above, five of ten studies carried out on other cannabinoids indicated that there was indeed some evidence to suggest that cannabinoids could be effective for symptoms of pain and or spasticity, related to MS. It may also help with sleep and bladder problems, related to the disorder. While this is positive, the other five studies did not show any significant difference or were inconclusive, meaning that more research needs to be done.
Does medical cannabis have any side effects?
Yes, unfortunately, like a lot of medically prescribed drugs, there can be some side effects of using cannabis for medicinal purposes. The extent of these side effects will likely vary between different people and the types of medications prescribed.
Side effects from both CBD and THC can include:
- Fatigue and drowsiness
- Finding it hard to concentrate
- Vertigo or balance issues
- Nausea and vomiting
- Decrease or increase in appetite
- Dry mouth
Side effects from medications high in THC can include:
- Memory issues or confusion
- Believing things that are not true (cognitive distortion)
- Feeling depressed
- Feeling paranoid
- A ‘high’ feeling
Remember to always follow the guidelines stated on the medication, as well as those of your doctor. For many cannabis medications you will not be able to drive or operate heave machinery while using the medication. You may also not be able to use the cannabis prescribed medication with certain other medications you are taking. Keep in mind that there may be negative side effects and always talk to your doctor if you are unsure about anything. Medical cannabis is not for everyone.
Where do I get medical cannabis?
You will be able to get medical cannabis in most states in Australia, although some may be an easier process to go through. Each state has its own laws, although it is all regulated by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
Medical practitioners who wish to prescribe cannabis for medicinal purposes must register and be approved by the TGA, through the Authorised Prescriber Scheme and the Special Access Scheme. Only doctors can prescribe medicinal cannabis, you are not allowed to grow it yourself at home.
Each state will have its own laws, so look on the government health department for the state you live in to get more information. When going to your doctor, always make sure you are fully aware of the side effects of the medication prescribed and ask your doctor for full details if you are usure. They will be able to provide the best medication for you personally.
To find out more on medical cannabis, please check out our dedicated page on our site. You will find more information and growing tips, for those who live in areas which permit.