Some people are interested in using cannabis for medical purposes.
What is it?
Cannabis is a plant that contains many types of chemicals called cannabinoids. These chemicals act on certain receptors found on cells in our body. Cannabinoids can also be made in a laboratory.
Medicinal cannabis contains standard measures of cannabinoids. Two cannabinoids commonly used in medicinal cannabis are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
What is the evidence?
There is no evidence that medicinal cannabis can treat or cure cancer itself. Research studies have looked at the potential benefits of using medicinal cannabis to relieve cancer symptoms and treatment side effects. There is some evidence that cannabinoids can help people who have found conventional treatment unsuccessful for some symptoms and side effects (e.g. chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting).
To date, published studies have shown medicinal cannabis to have little effect on appetite, weight, pain or sleep problems. Research is continuing in this area.
Accessing medicinal cannabis
It is illegal to grow, possess or use cannabis in Australia. However, the Australian Government allows seriously ill people to access medicinal cannabis for medical reasons through registered medical practitioners. Most medicinal cannabis products in Australia are unapproved products. This means that before prescribing medicinal cannabis, your doctor needs to get approval from the government.
The laws about access to medicinal cannabis vary in each state and territory. These laws may affect whether it can be prescribed for you.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) now allows low dose cannabis products containing up to 150 mg of CBD to be included on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) and sold over the counter by pharmacists. As at January 2023, no product has been approved by the TGA.
Medicinal cannabis may interact with some other drugs and also affect your driving ability. Talk with your doctor about any precautions you should take.
For more information, visit the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and search for “medicinal cannabis”.
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Dr David Joske, Clinical Haematologist, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and PathWest, Chairman and Founder Solaris Cancer Care Foundation, Clinical Professor of Medicine, The University of Western Australia, WA; Australasian Integrative Medicine Association (AIMA); Dr Robert Blum, Clinical Director, Cancer Services, Bendigo Health, NSW; Sally Brooks, Senior Pharmacist, Medicines Information, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Suzanne Grant, Senior Research Fellow, NICM Health Research Institute, Western Sydney University, and Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW; Prof Danforn Lim, Adjunct Professor and Advisory Board Member, NICM Health Research Institute, Western Sydney University, and Adjunct Professor, UTS, NSW; Christina Line, Statewide Services Senior Coordinator, Cancer Council WA; Jen McKenzie, Physiotherapist (Lymphoedema) and ESSA Accredited Exercise Physiologist, The McKenzie Clinic, QLD; Simone Noelker, Wellness Centre and Pastoral Care Manager, Ballarat Regional Integrated Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Nirzari Pandit, General Practitioner, RACGP Specific Interests Integrative Medicine Group, NSW; Georgie Pearson, Consumer; Cris Pirone, Counsellor, Cancer Council SA; Dr Elysia Thornton-Benko, Specialist General Practitioner, and UNSW Research Fellow, NSW; Kirsty Trebilcock, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA.
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