Medical cannabis suppositories are likely not the first thing that pops into your head as you start your cannabis consultation. But this novel format has many benefits and provides a valuable alternative for specific conditions and personal circumstances.
Although cannabinoid suppositories are not a standard delivery method here in Australia, they are one of the many product types now legally available to patients. As more patients speak freely about the benefits and new research is conducted, we will likely see more patients with a suppository prescription.
Whether you’re suppository-curious or feel a bit uncomfortable at the idea of vaginal or rectal administration, we’d encourage you to keep an open mind. There are benefits of this delivery method worth consideration.
What Are Cannabis Suppositories?
Cannabis suppositories are small cone-shaped capsules that contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), or a combination of both dissolved in fat like coconut oil, avocado oil, or cocoa butter. Since cannabinoids are fat-soluble molecules, the addition of an oil or butter aids in absorption.
Suppositories are designed to be inserted into the vagina or rectum, where the medication is quickly absorbed into the body. Some products are only designed to be inserted vaginally, while others are only intended for rectal use, and some can be used either way.
If you’re interested in suppositories, your doctor will discuss the recommended insertion method and suppository during your cannabis consultation. It will largely depend on the symptom you want to remedy.
Anal suppositories are often prescribed to patients undergoing chemotherapy with nausea and appetite issues, patients with swallowing issues caused by neurodegenerative conditions, patients with disabilities who may use things like feeding tubes or patients who have nutrition delivered via IV. They may also be prescribed for gastrointestinal conditions like Crohn's Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, localised pain, and other inflammatory conditions.
As always, to understand what options are best suited for your condition and circumstance, book a consultation with a doctor.
Patients seeking relief from vaginal-specific health conditions like endometriosis, vaginismus, pelvic floor dysfunction, or ovarian cysts may explore whether vaginal suppositories may be right for them.
How Do Cannabis Suppositories Work?
Once the cannabis suppository is inserted into the vagina or rectum, the body's warmth helps to melt the medication so the mucous membranes and inner walls of the rectum or vagina can readily absorb it.
Quickly following insertion, blood vessels located in the mucous membrane absorb the cannabinoids, which make their way into the bloodstream. This distributes the effects throughout the body while also providing rapid localised relief.
What Are the Benefits of Cannabis Suppositories?
While the literature around cannabis suppositories is not as rich as that of oral delivery methods like cannabis capsules, existing studies suggest numerous potential benefits.
The delivery method means your medication does not need to pass through the gastrointestinal tract before making its way to your bloodstream, making suppositories a good option for patients with gastrointestinal issues.
A recent study from 2018 used a model to test the differences between THC delivered orally, and a prodrug called tetrahydrocannabinol hemisuccinate (THC-HS) delivered rectally. Essentially THC-HS is an inactive medication that is activated into THC once ingested.
The study's authors concluded that delivery of THC through suppository "could have several practical advantages,", especially for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and patients with difficulty swallowing. In addition, they noted benefits from longer and higher exposure compared with the oral version and theorised a reduction in psychoactive effects.
A rectally administered dose of THC may be less likely to intoxicate a patient. It typically results in a longer, slower release time, making the onset of effects much smoother. This is especially beneficial for patients with palliative or chronic conditions who require high doses but want to reduce the intensity of effects
How to Access Medical Cannabis Suppositories
Medical cannabis suppositories are no longer quite as taboo as they once were. The more vocal people are about their experiences with this novel format, the more curious patients, doctors, and researchers become.
If you’re wondering if you might be eligible for medical cannabis suppositories, whether as a first-time medical cannabis user or an existing patient, book an appointment with a doctor at a cannabis clinic or your local GP.
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.