australia cbd meaningDecember 15, 2021
Some people claim that smoked cannabis should be considered as a treatment for various medical conditions or even as a cure for cancer. However, there are two major concerns.
Secondly, the majority of medicines used in Australia are produced under strict conditions. That way, doctors who are prescribing them (as well as people who are using them) know exactly what’s in them.
There are three main forms of cannabis that can be used medicinally:
Types and forms of medicinal cannabis.
For some people with chronic or terminal illnesses, conventional medicines don’t work, or don’t work as effectively as medicinal cannabis. Also, for some patients, conventional medicines may work but cause debilitating side effects that cannabis can help to relieve. 2.
It’s important that doctors know that medicines have been tested and that each dose is the same. This means doctors can monitor the effects of a drug and doses can be adjusted according to a patient’s needs.
Recently, the TGA has made changes to its Special Access Scheme to make it easier for medical practitioners to prescribe cannabis-based medicines for patients in need, under certain conditions.
Firstly, smoking is a particularly harmful way of taking cannabis, mainly because carcinogenic substances are inhaled directly into the lungs. Smoking cannabis is not recommended by health authorities, as the smoked form contains at least 50 of the same carcinogens as tobacco. 8.
When recreational cannabis is used as medicine, doctors and patients can’t be sure of how strong it is or what mix of chemicals is in it. Consequently, one dose will never be the same as another. 8.
Research has found that the cannabis plant produces between 80 and 100 cannabinoids and about 300 non-cannabinoid chemicals. The two main cannabinoids that have therapeutic benefits are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). There have been claims that other cannabinoids have therapeutic properties, but these have not yet been proven. 1.
The main psychoactive ingredient of cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which acts on specific receptors in the brain known as cannabinoid or CB1 receptors. 3.
Why smoking cannabis for medical purposes is not recommended.
Research is being conducted into CBD for its potential to treat epilepsy, schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, type 2 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, some tumours, and drug dependency. 1.
The main difference between the two cannabinoids is that THC has strong psychoactive effects, meaning it makes a person ‘high’, whereas CBD is thought to have an anti-psychoactive effect that controls or moderates the ‘high’ caused by the THC. CBD is also thought to reduce some of the other negative effects that people can experience from THC, such as anxiety. 4.
Legislation that allows cannabis to be grown for medical or scientific purposes in Australia has been passed by the federal government.
In October 2016, the Commonwealth Government started a national licensing scheme for the cultivation and manufacture of medicinal cannabis and controls all its regulatory aspects.
There is a community need for medicines and therapies that can help to alleviate the painful symptoms of various illnesses and diseases.
The endocannabinoid system.
Broadly speaking, medicinal cannabis is cannabis prescribed to relieve the symptoms of a medical condition, such as epilepsy. It’s important to distinguish between medicinal and recreational cannabis. Recreational cannabis is the form that people use to get ‘high’. 1.
The endocannabinoid system is a unique communications system in the brain and body that affects many important functions. 5 It’s made up of natural molecules known as cannabinoids, and the pathways they interact with. Together, these parts work to regulate activities like mood, memory, sleep and appetite. It is thought that medicinal cannabis can treat various illnesses by acting on the endocannabinoid system. 6.
An increasing number of studies suggest that medicinal cannabis in the form of oral extracts, sprays or pills can reduce pain and help treat some illnesses. However, as with many other drugs, medicinal cannabis can also cause unwanted side effects, such as difficulty concentrating, dizziness, drowsiness, loss of balance, and problems with thinking and memory. 9,10.
The psychoactive effects of THC, such as euphoria and feeling relaxed or sleepy, are well known, but it also has analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, as well as preventing and reducing vomiting. 1.
Under the TGA Special Access Scheme, some forms of medicinal cannabis are available. The scheme allows the import and supply of an unapproved therapeutic good to individual patients on a case-by-case basis.
Manufacture is a joint responsibility between the Commonwealth and the states and territories. Access to any cannabis products manufactured under the scheme is also a joint responsibility, with supply controlled by the provisions in the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989, which works in tandem with state and territory drugs and poisons legislation. 10,11.
Already there’s countless overseas companies taking an interest in selling to Aussies. “They see it as perhaps the fastest growing market in the world, even though it’s a small population the numbers add up,” says Dr Iain.
So yeah, the government and researchers are well aware that a lot of people in Australia are opting to bypass the current system and spend their money offshore, buying online from places like Canada and the US. But there are signs that prices will go down, since obviously there’s an increasingly competitive market for it.
“It’s become this almost universal panacea,” says Dr Iain. Depending on who you ask, CBD oil is good for what ails you, whether that be anxiety, anorexia, insomnia, PTSD, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, depression, migraines, or feeling chronically unchill.
The good news in all of this, agree both experts, is that that strict regime tends to ensure high quality control of the product. “By being careful and quite well regulated the Australian scheme is probably going to give rise to very good products that will have a lot of export potential,” says Dr Iain. “The unfortunate thing is, Australian consumers are having to wait a very long time to get these products and at a reasonable price.”
“CBD got caught up in the whole medical cannabis legalisation thing that happened from late 2016,” Dr Iain explains. As part of that, there was a “torturous process” set up for Australians to access CBD, whereby you had to go through a doctor, hope said doctor is educated about CBD and is in favour of its use, then persuade them that CBD is right for you, then they would need to write a complicated application and send that off to Canberra to the TGA who would then decide either way.
How do you actually get CBD oil?
“What is concerning. as CBD becomes more available companies will inevitably jump on board to try and make a dollar out of it. This is the hype that I’m concerned about,” she says.
As of 2015 CBD oil is legal in Australia, as long as it contains at least 98% cannabidiol and 2% or less of other cannabinoids found in cannabis. When compared to a lot of other countries, like the US, Canada, Japan, Germany, Switzerland, UK, Netherlands, we’re quite behind.
It was first discovered in the 50s and 60s (in modern times) and was basically thought to be useless, says the Doc. That was, until the 70s, when we rediscovered its antiepileptic effects. But it really wasn’t until the past four or five years that there’s been a real increase in awareness and research.
You’ve probably met its mate, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (aka THC aka the one that makes you ≋h≋i≋g≋h≋) but CBD will not get you stoned. (Unless you’ve got it from somewhere slightly dodgy and you’re not 100% sure about the THC content).
The difference now is that Authorised Prescribers (AP) don’t need to apply to the TGA via the Special Access Scheme (SAS), they can write you a prescription on the spot. These APs can be either specialists or a GP, but there’s no full list right now, so your best bet is to start making some enquiries.
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But CBD research takes money, something which scientists are notoriously short on. And ideally they’d be able to grow their own products here to research but that would take less regulation, something which governments are notoriously fond of.
So to be clear, CBD is used for medical reasons and NOT Reefer Madness. What kind of medical reasons? According to Dr Iain McGregor, Professor of Psychopharmacology, “It’s more a case of what it doesn’t do rather than what it does.”
Neuropharmacologist, University of Wollongong lecturer and Associate Investigator with ACRE, Dr Katrina Green, also notes that after 12,000 years of interaction between humans and cannabis, our understanding of this plant is still very much in its infancy.
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CBD has recently changed from Schedule 4 (prescription only) to Schedule 3, which means you should be able to get low dose CBD (max.150 mg daily dose) over the counter at your local pharmacy.
“The main thing we need is a really vibrant domestic market. It grows particularly well in Australia — the stuff just jumps out of the ground!”
Of course, if you do go that route, there’s the issue of cost, which is prohibitive for a lot of people. Sitting at about $10-$15 a day, “you’d probably find it’s cheaper to grow your own (and a lot of people do).”
There’s also the placebo effect to consider, so after weeks of use the shine may wear off and the expenditure may seem less worth it.
“CBD is obviously pretty important. Its anti-inflammatory capacity and its ability to protect the brain is evident in almost every study that you pick up.”
On top of that, your average over the counter product that’ll be available here will have relatively low concentrations of CBD. So, if you’re getting an oil that has maybe 30 milligrams per mil, your average daily dose is probably less than 100 milligrams of CBD. However, clinical trials and research suggest that effective doses for things like anxiety and psychosis tend to be a lot higher, they tend to be up around 500-1000 milligrams, which causes Dr Iain beg the question: “Even if we get the over the counter products available in Australia, will they actually be any good?”
What’s CBD good for?
“The hype is almost certainly wrong. The idea that it’s just a placebo is almost certainly wrong, as well. So the truth is somewhere in between. What we have to do as scientists is work out what that truth actually is.”
Especially when it comes to younger brains and an increasingly casual use of cannabis products, Dr Katrina advises: “Just remember cannabidiol is a medicine.”
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However, there are currently no TGA approved products on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) that meet the Schedule 3 criteria. And that process of approval could take years.
As of 2020, out of the approvals issued in total in over three years, Dr Iain estimated that about 20,000 patients gained access legally (when you take into account the prescription renewals throughout that time). “And there’s probably 10 times more people — certainly from our surveys — that are accessing illicit cannabis and self-medicating.”
As a neuroscientist, Dr Katrina is particularly interested in the developing brain and the short term and long term effects of cannabidiol use on it. “A lot of people say that CBD is non-psychoactive but psychoactive is defined as something that interacts with the brain and changes behaviour. Now that applies to THC, alcohol, heroin, whatever. CBD is absolutely psychoactive, it’s just psychoactive in a good way.”
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