About Medicinal Cannabis

What is Medicinal Cannabis

Medicinal cannabis can be legally prescribed by a doctor.

Manufacturers develop medicinal cannabis products specifically to treat the symptoms of a medical condition or to ease the side effects of other treatments.

The main active ingredients in medicinal cannabis products is called THC and CBD.

  1. THC is what causes the ‘high’ feeling, but it has also been found to reduce nausea, vomiting, pain, muscle spasms and improve sleep and appetite.
  2. CBD has been found to reduce the ‘high’ caused by THC, and may also be effective for seizures, pain, and may reduce anxiety.
  3. Together, THC and CBD may benefit a range of conditions.

Medicinal cannabis and illegal cannabis come from the same type of plants – but are very different.

Illegal cannabis is grown from unknown sources, and may contain pesticides, moulds, and bacteria which are harmful.

The manufacture of medicinal cannabis is highly regulated and must conform to strict Good Manufacturing Practices – this means products are free from harmful ingredients, that doctors know what is in it, and that the effect it has for a patient will be the same from bottle to bottle.

All drugs have side effects, and like any other medicine, medicinal cannabis may or may not be right for you. It’s important to speak to your doctor about your treatment and questions about medicinal cannabis.

Talking to your doctor

As more doctors are prescribing medicinal cannabis throughout Australia, it’s getting easier for patients to approach their doctors for information.

Even so, some people still avoid asking their doctors about medicinal cannabis because they fear they will be judged. It’s important to remember that access is legal, and you have a right to ask about available treatment options.

The following are a few tips to help you get the conversation started -

Do your research and be prepared with relevant information – such as why you think cannabis may benefit your condition.
It’s important to speak with a doctor who knows your medical history. If you’re meeting a new doctor – be prepared to review your medical background, any existing conditions you might have and the medications you are taking at the time of your visit. If you have specialist reports or other information about your medical history – bring it with you.
It is important to ask your doctor as many questions as possible, such as -
  • Is medicinal cannabis used to treat my condition?
  • Are there any risks associated with my taking medicinal cannabis for my condition?
  • What are the potential benefits medicinal cannabis could have for my condition?
Don’t avoid talking to your doctor about medicinal cannabis. Be honest and forthcoming with information about your medical condition, including your understanding of and/or questions about the role cannabis can have. If you’re uncomfortable, it can be helpful to bring a family member or friend to the appointment for additional support.

Pathways to patient access

Medicinal cannabis can only be prescribed by a registered medical practitioner and must be accessed through special pathways. These pathways are known as Special Access Schemes Category A and B.

Special Access Scheme Category A is for terminally ill patients, and Special Access Scheme B is for patients who are not terminally ill but need access to medicinal cannabis for their condition.

Your doctor will apply on your behalf, through one of the above pathways. Your doctor may also need to apply for state approval, as rules relating to medicinal cannabis currently varies between states.

Considerations

Using illegal cannabis to treat a condition can do more harm than good. Illegal cannabis, including ‘homegrown’ cannabis, contains unknown and variable concentrations of active ingredients that may contain potentially harmful contaminants.

Medicinal cannabis should be considered only after standard treatments have failed. It is important to note that response to medicinal cannabis varies from person to person and finding the right dose may require trial and error. Our understanding of the role of medicinal cannabis will evolve through the experience of doctors and the individuals they treat.

Talk to your doctor about why you’re seeking medicinal cannabis and if it’s appropriate for you and your condition. Please note that medicinal cannabis should only be considered after standard treatment options have been explored.

If your doctor is not familiar with prescribing pathways, you can put them in touch with us and/or we may be able to help connect you with a doctor who can assist – please call 1800 187 878 for more information.

On 24 February 2016, Australia legalised medicinal cannabis at the federal level. Medicinal cannabis is legal because it is developed with high safety and consistency standards. Medicinal cannabis must be prescribed by a registered medical practitioner after obtaining approval for its use.
You should consult with your GP about medicinal cannabis - depending upon the state you live in, you may need a referral to a specialist to obtain a prescription.
Patients can be prescribed medicinal cannabis by registered medical practitioners with appropriate qualifications and/or expertise for the medical condition requiring treatment.