Medicinal cannabis is legal in Australia, but is not yet a first line therapy for any medical condition.
It is available under the Special Access Scheme from approved prescribers, for conditions such as epilepsy, chronic non-cancer pain, multiple sclerosis, palliative care and chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.
The cannabis plant produces over 200 chemical compounds but the two main chemicals are – cannabidiol or CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol or THC.
- THC is psychoactive – it can make you high
- CBD is not psychoactive.
The dose and ratio are still in trial stage and vary depending on the condition and what a patient can tolerate.
Each patient is thoroughly screened and has usually exhausted all other treatments. Patients found suitable are carefully monitored by their approved prescriber and doctor.
Known side effects include nausea, sleepiness, diarrhoea, and possibly hallucinations, psychosis. However, results are promising for some patients – recent research has shown in severe forms of epilepsy it may reduce seizures by 50%, and, anecdotally, some patients have reported a reduction in chronic pain.
The field of medicinal cannabis is exciting but there are still many hurdles –
- it is currently very expensive and yet to be placed on the PBS
- access is only via an approved prescriber
- standardisation of quantity and quality
- it is illegal to drive when taking medicinal cannabis
- travelling interstate or overseas is yet to be tested.
Talk to your GP about medicinal cannabis and read the information on this website.