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How is Cannabis Used for Medical Purposes?

What is medicinal cannabis?
Cannabis is being used as an alternative medicine for patients seeking relief of symptoms

What is medicinal cannabis?

A new stage in the history of medical marijuana has begun. The alternative treatment option continues to grow in popularity throughout the world, and the legal market surrounding cannabis has gone from non-existent to steadily growing in a matter of years.

After years of prohibition, the plant-based medicine is emerging as a viable natural remedy used to provide relief of symptoms associated with chronic conditions. The medicinal products are derived from the two major active ingredients found in the cannabis plant: CBD and THC.

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a non-psychoactive compound and won’t affect an individual’s sobriety. THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is psychoactive and the reason behind the “high” associated with cannabis.

Experts are actively exploring the potential benefits of marijuana. The history of its use as a medicine can be traced back to ancient times, with physicians mixing it alongside other medicines to treat a variety of ailments.

The market is steadily expanding, but years of propaganda still lingers in the air, making it difficult for people to know what the truth is about medicinal cannabis. Let’s review what it is about cannabis that has driven so much interest.


How is cannabis used for medical purposes?

How is cannabis used for medical purposes?
Cannabis is being used as an alternative medicine for patients seeking relief of symptoms

The controversial nature of cannabis has for years prevented efficient research on the therapeutic potential. The early signs, however, have been encouraging enough to drive more research and clinical trial opportunities.

A key distinction between medicinal cannabis products and the use of recreational cannabis is that the former is grown according to strict manufacturing requirements. The product is created with the specific purpose of treating certain symptoms.

In contrast, there are currently no systems in place to regulate the recreational sale of cannabis in Australia and it is still illegal.

The main active cannabinoids found in cannabis are extracted and combined with other medicinal ingredients and/or flavouring. Medicinal cannabis products will contain THC, CBD, or a combination of both.

The naturally occurring chemical compounds interact with our endocannabinoid system (ECS) to produce their effects. Understanding how the ECS works can help us understand how cannabis is used for medical purposes.


What is the endocannabinoid system?

What is the endocannabinoid system?
THC and CBD interact with the endocannabinoid system to produce their effects

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex system of receptors and cell signallers found throughout our bodies and brains. The purpose of the ECS is to help regulate many of our body’s functions including pain, memory, mood, and more.

Endocannabinoids are cannabinoids produced naturally by our bodies. These compounds attach to the receptors of the ECS as a way of signalling for the ECS to act.

Enzymes then break down the endocannabinoids once the ECS has performed its function, so the system knows when to discontinue producing the effect.

THC works similarly to endocannabinoids, attaching to the receptors found in the body. The psychoactive compound overwhelms the ECS and activates the brain’s reward system. Dopamine is then released at a higher rate than when usually observed, responding to naturally rewarding occurrences.

CBD works by preventing the enzymes from breaking down the endocannabinoids, which allows ECS to continue producing its effects. As the endocannabinoids stay attached to the receptors, the ECS continues to receive the signal to act.


How is medical marijuana prescribed?

How is medical marijuana prescribed?
The Therapeutics Goods Administration regulates the sale of medical marijuana

Buying weed in Sydney is not as simple as merely going to the store to purchase a product. Instead, patients will need to consult with a doctor about getting a valid medical prescription.

A doctor will assess the patient’s condition and determine if medical marijuana is a suitable treatment option in the circumstances.  If a medical practitioner deems it clinically appropriate for the patient, they will write a prescription for medical marijuana.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) regulates the supply of medicinal cannabis. Most of the available medical marijuana products are not registered, and medical practitioners will need approval from the TGA to prescribe them.

For doctors to gain access to plant-based medicines, they can do so via the Special Access Scheme or the Authorised Prescriber Scheme.

CBD and THC shouldn’t be used as a first line of treatment. Only in cases where conventional medicine is failing to work should a patient consider using the plant-based treatment option.


Is medical marijuana safe?

Is medical marijuana safe?
The early evidence indicates that medicinal cannabis has a favourable safety profile

Most experts agree that medicinal marijuana is well-tolerated and safe for adult use. The research, however, is still severely limited and nothing can be concluded with certainty.

Despite the relatively low risks involved, there are still some potential side effects associated with plant-based treatments. A few of the most commonly reported side effects are:

  • Drowsiness
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in mood
  • Lethargy
  • Fatigue
  • Racing thoughts
  • Paranoia

Qualified health practitioners also warn against the use of medicinal cannabis for patients who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or on blood thinners. Doctors are concerned that CBD may alter the metabolism of different blood thinners.

In addition, doctors are far less likely to prescribe medicinal cannabis to kids and teens as the research on how it affects developing brains is still severely limited.

Patients should only consider the use of medical marijuana if a doctor has deemed it clinically appropriate in the circumstances.


How is medical marijuana administered?

How is medical marijuana administered
How medical cannabis is administered is dependent on the type of product

As medicinal cannabis can come in a range of different product types, the way it is administered is dependent on the product prescribed.

A few of the most commonly prescribed products include:

  • Oils & Tinctures: These products are stored in a dripper bottle that allows patients to carefully pour droplets underneath the tongue. For best results, the droplets should sit for 30-60 seconds before swallowing.
  • Edibles: THC and CBD are often infused into various foods and snacks. In such cases, the product can simply be eaten.
  • Dried Flower: In cases where instant relief is needed, the dried flower may be prescribed. These products are usually consumed via a vaporiser.
  • Capsules: Medical marijuana can also be extracted and stored in capsules for a consumption method similar to conventional medicines.

Legal medicinal marijuana products will come with ingredients and instructions on administration on the packaging.


Summary

Medical cannabis is a treatment option derived from the marijuana plant. THC and CBD are extracted and used in a variety of different product types.

The purpose of medical cannabis is to provide relief to symptoms associated with chronic conditions. The efficacy and safety of the treatment option are still being actively explored.

THC and CBD each interact with our endocannabinoid system in different ways to produce their effects. THC is a psychoactive substance, but CBD is not.

Medicinal cannabis is considered largely safe for adult use. Experts, however, have emphasised the need for more clinical trials and controlled studies on the long-term safety and effectiveness of the treatment.

How medical marijuana is administered is dependent on the product type. A doctor will prescribe the product best suited for the patient’s condition.

For more information on how cannabis is used for medical purposes, don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our highly qualified experts today.

Take control of your health and well-being.

“Elevate your health, naturally”

Australia’s first national
online only plant-based healthcare centre.