Medical cannabis became legally available in Australia a couple of years ago. Information about how to apply for it has been slow in trickling through to the general public. A lot of people who could potentially benefit from the medicine are unsure about the prescription process or whether they would be eligible.
Several people I work with are already taking it and most have been reporting benefits of reduced pain, reduced anxiety and better sleep.
As you know I’m neither a doctor, not an expert on medical cannabis, however many people I work with have chronic pain, including neuropathic pain. So I have done some research and put together this information to give you some ideas about different ways you can apply.
There is scientific evidence that it may help the following conditions and situations:
- Chronic pain including inflammatory arthritis and neuropathic pain (moderately strong evidence)
- Epilepsy which has not responded to other medications (strong evidence)
- Multiple sclerosis
- Nausea, vomiting or loss of appetite for example during chemotherapy
- Palliative care
Chronic pain has some of the highest quality evidence and patients typically obtain 30 to 50% improvement, however there is no guarantee it will work for everyone. An even stronger case is for epilepsy which has not responded to other drugs.
Obtaining a prescription
To obtain a prescription it is necessary for your doctor to apply to the Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA). Clients must usually demonstrate that they have tried many or most other available treatments for their condition.
Research and Safety
It has been difficult to research in Australia simply because it was not legal until the last couple of years. However medicinal cannabis products have been used in many cultures for thousands of years. What we do know is that it is far safer with fewer serious side effects or adverse reactions that most other medications, especially those used for pain. So while medical cannabis may not work for everybody with the above conditions, it is considered to be very safe for most people. Please discuss with your GP in relation to any existing health issues.
Components and Types of Medical Cannabis
Cannabis Sativa contains several hundred different chemical compounds, including cannabinoids, terpenes and flavanoids. The two compounds which seem to have the greatest medicinal value are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol).
Of these only THC produces the psychoactive effects (or ‘high’) for which recreational marijuana is known. Where medical cannabis contains a high proportion of CBD, it tends to reduce the psychoactive effects of the THC. This is part of the so called ‘Entourage Effect’, a process where some of the phyto-chemicals from the plant either diminish or enhance the effect of other chemical components.
Patients with chronic pain may be prescribed purified CBD only, with the THC removed. This means it will not affect your ability to drive. There is no ‘high’ with CBD and it is known to help with pain and inflammation.
In some cases a compound containing both THC and CBD is found to be more effective. Patients are started on an extremely small dose, with a tiny fraction of the amount that would be smoked in a marijuana ‘joint’. They are increased very gradually to ensure they are safe until an effective level is reached without any unwanted or adverse effects. CBD is thought to decrease the psychoactive effects of the THC. At the same time THC is thought to improve the benefits of CBD for some conditions.
How does medical cannabis work?
It is thought to work through the body’s own Endocannabinoid System. The Endocannabinoid system is a chemical signaling system wihich helps to regulate many body processes with the purpose of maintaining balance or homeostasis. The body itself produces chemicals similar to cannabinoids which bind with cannabinoid receptors. The best known receptors are called CB1 (found mainly in the brain and central nervous system) and CB2 (found primarily in the immune system). More info
How to apply for Medical Cannabis prescription in Perth Australia
You need to see a doctor to obtain a prescription. The doctor must apply on your behalf to the Therapeutic Good Association (TGA). You can only obtain a prescription from one doctor. If you wish to change doctors, the authorization obtained by your previous doctor must be revoked and your new doctor must apply again to the TGA. There are 3 differenct ways to do this.
1. Your Own GP
It is now legal for Western Australian GPs to prescribe medical cannabis. GPs are gradually educating themselves about the newly available products and how to prescribe them, however not all GPs currently have enough knowledge or confidence to be able to do this. Unfortunately, a few doctors have a bias against it that may be based on a lack of knowledge of the research or a prejudicial belief. It’s important to find a doctor who is knowledgeable so that you get the support you need and deserve.
2. At a Specialized Clinic
The Emerald Clinics are a part of a specialist organisation that provides assessment presription and follow up support for those who wish to apply for a medical cannabis. The specially trained medical staff understand the pros and cons of the various different products available and can guide patients in getting the doseage right. The Emerald Clinic is also actively involved in research. They may ask patients to abstain from some prescription medications and / or any recreational marijuana for a number of weeks before starting them on medical cannabis. Emerald Clinics West Leederville
3. Internet application
Alternatively, you can apply for a prescription from one of the new companies that have opened up in Australia that are offering tele-health consultations. This means that you will have a phone or video appointment. Staff at these online clinics usually have special training and an understanding of the medical and legal aspects of applying for medical cannabis.
The first step is usually a screening with a nurse or other health professional. They will take your medical history and let you know if you are likely to be successful with your application.
If it seems that you meet the necessary criteria, you will then be offered a consultation with a doctor by phone or video link. There is usually a cost associated with the doctor’s appointment. You may or may not be able to claim this back through private health insurance. Currently these services can not be claimed under Medicare.
New clinics seem to be springing up ll the time. Here are some organisations who specialise in the prescription of medical cannabis at the time of writing:
Please note that I have no affiliation of any kind with any of the above organisations.
Good luck with your journey to better health!
Please note that this information does not constitute medical advice. Please consult a medical practitioner to discuss your individual situation. The information presented here is accurate to the best of my knowledge at the time of writing.