In recent years, using cannabis and other natural medicines to treat a variety of conditions has become a widespread practice. This is certainly the case in Australia, where medical cannabis is legal and can be prescribed by certain medical professionals.
But what exactly is medical cannabis, and how is it different from conventional cannabis? What conditions could it be applied to, and are you eligible for a prescription?
In this Article
What Is Medical Cannabis?
Unlike the cannabis you might have purchased on a street corner in Sydney, medical cannabis is carefully cultivated in a regulated environment. Special attention is paid to every facet of medical cannabis growth, including soil, hydration, and lighting.
Medical cannabis is rich in active cannabinoids and other helpful components. The chemical makeup of the plant is painstakingly measured and controlled, rendering the product consistent for patients so they know what to expect.
It’s tested for contaminants, mould, and phytochemical profile. With medical cannabis you’ll know exactly what you are getting, in every single prescribed product.
Medical cannabis is not a substitute for conventional treatments but may be prescribed in conjunction with a holistic treatment plan. Medical cannabis can help to fill in the gaps, to provide symptom relief where other treatments have failed, and improve quality of life.
What Types of Medical Cannabis Are Available in Australia?
As for the types of medical cannabis products available in Australia, there are a growing number available across the country. There are dozens of brands and more than 200 approved products, which all fit neatly into five product categories. These categories are largely based around total cannabinoid content (aka, potency).
Capsules, flower, sprays, oils, gels, topical products, and more may be available depending on your region’s regulations and clinic availability.
What Conditions Could it Help?
According to Health Direct, our national virtual public health information service, researchers are investigating several different conditions for treatment with medical cannabis.
We’ll briefly discuss several of the primary indications that are getting a lot of scientific attention.
The first is epilepsy. According to a recent article in the journal Molecules, CBD-rich cannabis has provided relief and “could represent hope for patients who are resistant to all conventional anti-epileptic drugs.”
Individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS) may find relief with medical cannabis treatment. Per a piece published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, & Psychiatry, the plant improves muscle spasticity.
You may have also heard about cannabis as a treatment for chemotherapy-related side effects. Research supports this application. As Noted by a 2015 publication in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, “Cannabis-based medications may be useful for treating refractory chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.”
Cannabis and Pain
Medical cannabis and other alternatives is a hot topic among chronic pain researchers. Which is especially pertinent, given the ineffectiveness and side effects related to conventional treatment options. With nearly 50 percent of all Australian medical cannabis patients using it to treat a wide variety of pain conditions, it deserves special attention.
In 2017 a comprehensive clinical review concluded “research indicates that although the results of experimental studies with healthy adults are mixed, there is converging evidence to support the notion that cannabis can produce acute pain-inhibitory effects among individuals with chronic pain.”
What does this mean for you as a patient?
While these are some of the current conditions undergoing investigation, there is no official list of qualifying diagnoses. Book a consultation with a doctor at a medical cannabis clinic or your local GP to better understand eligibility, and whether you could benefit from a medical cannabis prescription.
Does Medical Cannabis Have Any Side Effects?
Bear in mind that you may experience side effects if you ingest medical cannabis. This is not the case for everyone, but based on the data, some patients will experience one or more symptoms.
These side effects can include dizziness, drowsiness, issues with memory and thinking, problems with concentration, and difficulty with balance. For this reason, don’t operate a motor vehicle or heavy machinery after ingesting medical cannabis.
If you experience moderate to severe side effects, speak with your prescribing practitioner. They will be able to assess your specific needs, perhaps reducing dose size, changing dose size, or switching up total cannabinoid content.
Medical Cannabis and You
In a nutshell, medical cannabis may be able to help you manage one or more chronic conditions. If it sounds like medical cannabis could be of benefit, book an appointment with a doctor. There are a number of risks associated with the use of medical cannabis and your doctor will explain these to you before issuing a prescription. Medical cannabis affects everyone differently and may not help with your chronic condition.