Over the past few years there has been increased interest from Australians in the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. Commonwealth, state and territory governments have used existing laws or passed specific laws to allow the prescribing and dispensing of medicinal cannabis products, as well as cannabis cultivation and manufacture for medicinal purposes.
According to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), there have been very few well-designed clinical trials using medicinal cannabis, so there is limited evidence on its success in treating different medical conditions, or on effective forms and drug interactions.
Some medical conditions have seen positive results from the use of medicinal cannabis such as epilepsy in children, Multiple sclerosis, nausea and vomiting and some types of pain, however it is clear that more research is required to fully understand the risks and benefits of medicinal cannabis.
Just like any other medication, medicinal cannabis products can have side effects that affect people differently. These may include fatigue and sedation, vertigo, nausea and vomiting, fever, confusion, appetite increase or decrease, dry mouth and cognitive distortion (hallucinations and untrue thoughts).
Generally, people with an active or previous psychotic or active mood or anxiety disorder, women who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant or breastfeeding and people with unstable cardiovascular disease are generally not recommended to begin treatment with medicinal cannabis.
Patients should not drive or operate machinery while being treated with medicinal cannabis. In addition measurable concentrations of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol – the main psychoactive substance in cannabis) can be detected in urine many days after the last dose. It may take up to five days for 80 to 90 per cent of the dose to be excreted.
Drug-driving is a criminal offence, and patients should discuss the implications for safe and legal driving with their doctor
Medicinal cannabis products are highly regulated and the process of getting access to the medication is not as simple as asking your doctor for a prescription.
As most cannabis products in Australia are unregistered, your doctor will need to follow a special process give you access to medicinal cannabis. Generally, the following steps are involved:
Is it recommended that patients do some research before considering medicinal cannabis. Some useful resources include:
If you still have questions, please feel free to contact our pharmacists. We have extensive experience dealing with medicinal cannabis and can help to answer any of your questions.