what is Medicinal Cannabis?
Medicinal cannabis is the treatment of various medical problems by the use of cannabis derived medication. This medication can come in the form of pills, nasal sprays, oils, and other extracts.
Medicinal cannabis has been legal in Australia since the 30th of October 2016, when changes to the Narcotics Drugs Act 1967 meant that the controlled cultivation of cannabis for medicinal reasons became legal. The distribution of medical cannabis within Australia is very much highly regulated.
Medicinal cannabis, medical marijuana, medical cannabis, or however you want to call it, has been getting a lot of attention over the past few years and many countries around the world have now legalised weed for medical purposes.
Taken from the cannabis sativa or indica plant, THC, CBD, and CBN are extracted from the plant to form medicines to treat a range of disorders and problems. CBD is commonly used as this is a non-photoactive cannabinoid, meaning users can get medical benefits without the high you would get from smoking weed.
What does medicinal cannabis help with?
Medical cannabis is used to treat a range of issues such as:
- chronic pain
- vomiting and nausea from chemotherapy treatment
- it can help to control seizures in people with epilepsy and other disorders
- it can help with muscle spasms
- lack of appetite
- insomnia and general sleep problems
- ADHD (attention deficit disorder)
- anxiety and depression
- symptoms of multiple sclerosis
There up to a hundred cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant (studies have found around 80-100), with Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) being the most common two you will hear about. CBD is known for its medicinal benefits and THC is what gives you the high feeling when smoking cannabis, however it is also used to treat medical issues. In fact, there is some evidence to suggest that medication which include both CBD and THC give more relief to patients than just CBD medication alone.
These cannabinoids interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system which has a direct effect on our memory, moods, sleep, and appetite. Research on medicinal cannabis is ongoing, and whilst there have been promising results, many agree that much more testing needs to be done. But many researchers and scientists are looking into how cannabis can treat multiple medical issues, as well as how other lesser-known cannabinoids interact with the body.
Are there any side effects of medical cannabis?
Medicinal cannabis medications in Australia are highly regulated and manufactured to produce results but to also minimalize side effects. However, users may still experience some side effects from medical cannabis, just like with any medication. These include:
- Dry Mouth
- Lack of concentration or drowsiness
- Memory problems
- Mood changes
- Issues with balance
Side effects are usually minimal but with some higher dose medications, some users may experience paranoia or hallucinations. There is also reason for concern for giving teenagers medicinal cannabis when their brains are still developing. Use of cannabis in young people may results in a higher risk of schizophrenia or IQ loss.
The distribution of medicinal cannabis in Australia is controlled and regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). The only way Australian citizens can access medical cannabis is through their doctor.
The doctor who prescribes the medication must also comply with the relevant state laws for permits and to be approved under specific requirements. Doctors need to apply to the TGA in order to prescribe medicinal cannabis to their patients. This is usually done through the Authorised Prescriber Scheme or the Special Access Scheme.
Before gaining access to medicinal cannabis, you will need to speak to your doctor and get the correct medical advice first. Each state has slightly different laws so make sure you are aware of what is legal where you live. Currently only ACT residents are allowed to grow a small amount of cannabis at home legally.
However, if you are wanting to use it to treat a medical issue, it is still wise to go to a doctor rather than trying to treat it yourself by smoking weed. There is limited research into the long-term effects of smoking cannabis and the THC can also impact users negatively. Always speak to a medical professional for the correct advice to treat any problems.
Gaining access to medicinal cannabis in each state:
How to access medicinal cannabis in Australia
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