Medical use of cannabis

Marijuana is a drug that comes from the cannabis plant. The main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). THC is a type of cannabinoid. There are many other types of cannabinoids in marijuana. Cannabinoids are chemicals that act on certain receptors on cells in our body, especially cells in the central nervous system.

The potential benefits of cannabis and cannabinoids for symptom relief have been part of a number of government reviews and public debate in recent years. There is some evidence that cannabinoids can help people who have found conventional treatment unsuccessful for some symptoms and side effects. Examples of these include pain, nausea and vomiting.

It can also act as an appetite stimulant for people experiencing weight loss and muscle wasting. There is no scientific evidence that cannabis can treat cancer. Marijuana is an illegal substance in Australia. However, the Australian government allows seriously ill people to access marijuana for medical reasons. This is commonly called medical marijuana.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration’s Special Access Scheme allows eligible medical practitioners to apply to import and supply medicinal cannabis products. The laws about access to medical cannabis vary in each state and territory. These may affect whether you can be prescribed this substance in your area.

To find out more about access to cannabis for medical purposes, see the Australian government’s Medicinal Cannabis guide


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This information was last reviewed in May 2018
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