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Medicinal Cannabis

What is medicinal cannabis?

Cannabis, derived from a plant and one of the oldest known drugs, has for various reasons, remained a source of controversy throughout its history. Medicinal cannabis is a medication that is derived from cannabis plants, but that has been specifically bred for its clinical properties and is highly regulated in terms of its strength and contents.

It can be used to treat a wide range of medical conditions, as well as the side-effects of some medications/conditions. It is a legal treatment that can be prescribed by a doctor and obtained through a regular pharmacy if they are a dispenser of medicinal cannabis. It is not currently subsidised by the PBS but has to be paid for in full by the patient. In some instances, this can be funded by the NDIS, if the clinical situation warrants it.

The active ingredients in medicinal cannabis are called 'cannabinoids'.

"Endocannabinoids and their receptors are found throughout the body: in the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells. With its complex actions in our immune system, nervous system, and virtually all of the body’s organs, the endocannabinoids are literally a bridge between body and mind. By understanding this system, we begin to see a mechanism that could connect brain activity and states of physical health and disease."

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3997295/

Due to the complexity of all the interactions, researchers are still investigating and discovering all the mechanisms of action, but suffice it to say that this truly is a miracle plant and that more and more uses should become available as the research catches up.

At the moment, most medicinal cannabis products contain the cannabinoids cannabidiol (CBD) and/or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), as well as terpenes - the essential oils of the cannabis plants. Together, they have an entourage effect. Liken this to a symphony orchestra - one instrument might sound beautiful, but together, all the instruments create a beautiful symphony.

What medicinal cannabis products are available?

Medicinal cannabis products vary, from oils to capsules, dried buds, and many more, depending on the symptoms or condition they are designed to treat. The way that you take them can vary too. Dr. Kolesky will assess your needs, and make a decision about whether there is an appropriate medicinal cannabis product for you.

Please also note that your medication can consist of CBD only, THC only, or a CBD/THC combination. This will be determined at your consultation with Dr. Kolesky.

What can medicinal cannabis be used for?

Despite cannabis, or marijuana, being around for a very long time, there is still not much formal evidence for doctors to rely on when deciding which product to prescribe to patients - sometimes we start with one, and then change over to another product as we reassess the patient and their response.

There is some evidence that certain medicinal cannabis products may be useful in treating the following conditions:

  • anxiety
  • severe insomnia
  • chronic pain, fibromyalgia
  • symptoms associated with cancer and cancer treatment (such as nausea, pain and loss of appetite)
  • epilepsy
  • multiple sclerosis (MS) and other auto-immune diseases
  • symptom relief in palliative care
  • autism
  • other, based on an individual assessment

Dr. Kolesky is an Authorised Prescriber of medicinal cannabis, however, in some instances, a TGA submission needs to be made to the Government for approval to use a certain product for a certain patient. If you are making an appointment for medicinal cannabis, please bring relevant documentation and investigations relating to the medical condition that you have, as this may need to accompany your application.

Please note that Australian legislation sadly still hasn't caught up with the fact that medicinal cannabis has been legalised for use. At present, drug testing only tests for the PRESENCE of THC, not whether the patient is actually affected or intoxicated by it, therefore it is still illegal to drive whilst using THC containing products.

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