A new chapter in the history of medicinal cannabis is being written. These alternative treatment options have moved from a sketchy underground market to a thriving legal one. As interest expands, research grows, and we continue to learn more about what these therapies could offer.
This natural remedy is derived from the cannabis plant. They are similar to hemp, but differ in that they contain key compounds that can be used medicinally. Whether they are an effective treatment option is still debated among experts.
Medical marijuana consists of active compounds known as cannabinoids. The two primary ones are CBD and THC. These naturally occurring chemicals are similar in molecular structure but differ in the arrangement of the atoms.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a non-psychoactive ingredient. This means that it does not cause a high or intoxicate users in anyway. THC is psychoactive and the reason for the high associated with the treatment.
So what does this mean? Well, the psychoactive component is one that causes a high. The popular and favoured non-psychoactive compound will not have any intoxicating effect on users. A crucial difference.
The purpose of medicinal cannabis is to provide relief for symptoms associated with chronic conditions. However, we are still very much in the early phases of analysing the treatments’ effectiveness.
Experts continue to ask, “what can medical cannabis be used to treat?”. The more the research grows, the closer we get to definitive answers.
Is medical marijuana safe?
As years of governmental restrictions prevented adequate research, we are still in the infant stages of learning about the safety and efficacy of these treatments. Still, most experts believe that medical marijuana is generally safe for most adults.
However, it should be said that there are potential side effects of medical cannabis. Some of the most common concerns associated with plant-based medicines include:
- Dry mouth
A few of the other risks often mentioned include:
- Potential for addiction and dependence
- Possible lung damage (In cases involving vaping or smoking)
- Potential negative impact on developing brains.
There are also much more significant safety risks associated with unauthorised and black-market products. The lack of manufacturing requirements and third-party testing means there may be harmful contaminants or toxins included. The side effects of these products can be much more severe.
Always consult with a doctor before deciding to use plant-based treatments to improve health.
What medical cannabis products are available?
As the interest in this alternative medication grows, more products are being made available. In Australia, some of the most commonly prescribed products are:
- Cannabis oils and tinctures
- Dried flower
- Topical products
The onset time and duration of effects will differ among the various products. A medical practitioner can help determine which products suit individuals best. Doctors will also provide the best advice when it comes to how to take medicinal cannabis.
Products are also often divided into isolate, broad-spectrum, and full-spectrum CBD. The ingredients differ in each category, with full spectrum products containing traces of THC. Broad-spectrum and isolate products contain no psychoactive substances.
The therapeutic potential of medical cannabis
When it comes to the medical benefits of using these natural remedies, we must be cautious not to overstate what we know. Experts have emphasised that while the early research has been positive, nothing can be concluded with certainty.
The need for larger clinical trials and controlled studies is clear, but the ongoing research has been justified by the early results. As we continue to uncover how medicinal marijuana works, we will soon have a much clearer understanding of the benefits.
Researchers are actively exploring how medicinal cannabis impact the following symptoms:
The impact of cannabis on anxiety is one of the leading topics when it comes to research on the alternative medication. One study found that the CBD has anxiolytic properties and can be effective for a number of anxiety disorders.
People in pain often look into alternative medicines when mainstream treatments are not helping. A review from 2015 found that medical cannabis may prove effective in treating chronic and neuropathic pain.
Sleeplessness impacts a large group of people all throughout the world. An article wrote that medical marijuana may have short-term benefits in improving sleep time and reducing sleep onset latency.
Research has shown that medical cannabis products can significantly reduce seizure frequency with no adverse side effects. The results of one such study found that it is a well-tolerated and effective medicine for children suffering from intractable epilepsies.
Opioid addiction is one of the most harmful issues prevalent worldwide. A systemic review found that it indicates the likelihood of reducing opioid dosage when used in combination with medicinal cannabis.
Who can access medical marijuana?
If you’re wondering where to buy medical marijuana, it’s not exactly as easy as going to a store. In Australia, only those with valid medical prescriptions can legally access these plant-based remedies. This means that before you decide on anything, you’ll need to consult with a doctor.
There is no set list of conditions or symptom criteria when it comes to prescriptions for medicinal cannabis therapy. Qualified medical practitioners will instead make judgements on a case-by-case basis. A few requirements will need to be met, such as:
- The patient must have a chronic condition.
- Conventional medicine must have failed to provide the necessary relief.
- There must be existing evidence to suggest that medical cannabis may help.
- The doctor must deem it clinically appropriate.
As most of these alternative medicines are unregistered products, medical practitioners need approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration to write prescriptions. This can be done via the Special Access Scheme (SAS) or the Authorised Prescribers Scheme (AP). Doctors who prescribe medical marijuana are careful to do thorough examinations of patients.
What else do I need to know?
The information surrounding these medicines can be overwhelming and occasionally difficult to follow. We highlight some additional key points below:
- One of the most commonly asked questions is whether medical cannabis shows up in drug tests. The answer? It depends on the ingredients. If THC is included, it will trigger a positive test. If only CBD was used, it will not.
- Another crucial point to be aware of is the differences between cannabis and hemp. While misleading marketing has often caused people to equate the two products, they are entirely distinct from one another.
- A wide range of medicinal cannabis examples The manufacturing of natural remedies and medical cannabis oils involves a careful extraction process that must meet rigorous standards. Legal products must be of high quality and safety standards.
As medical marijuana continues to establish itself as a potentially viable treatment option, the market is growing at a steady rate. The previously-banned remedy is being used to relieve symptoms associated with chronic conditions.
Only patients with valid medical prescriptions can access these alternative medicines. This means that your first step should always be to consult with a qualified and authorised medical practitioner.
Most experts believe medicinal cannabis to be well-tolerated and safe to use. There are, however, side effects and risks associated with the treatment.
A range of different medical cannabis exists in Australia. A medical practitioner can assist patients with which product best suits them.
While research is still limited, experts are continuously exploring the possible medical benefits of plant-based treatments.
For more information on what medicinal cannabis is, give us a call. Our experts are more than happy to assist.