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Medical Conditions, Patient Education

Medicinal cannabis for anxiety, explained.

Medicinal cannabis for anxiety, explained.

Anxiety is an extremely prevalent mental health condition affecting millions of Australians daily. With symptoms ranging from excessive worry and restlessness to panic attacks and sleep disturbance, it’s no wonder so many Australians are turning to a wide range of therapies to help manage their condition.

Anxiety is among the top conditions that cannabis is prescribed to help treat in Australia.1 In this article, we’ll break down why medicinal cannabis is becoming such a popular treatment for anxiety and how it can help reduce anxiety symptoms in some patients.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is the body’s physical response to a real or perceived threat. Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time, it can even help us avoid danger in some real-life situations. But for some people, anxious feelings and symptoms don’t go away. They stick around even when there is no real or immediate threat to that person. Anxiety can affect concentration, sleep, relationships and the ability to carry out daily tasks. When anxiety is a problem that persists without the presence of a real or immediate threat, it is generally categorised as an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorders are the most common group of mental health conditions in Australia and affect 1 in 4 Australians2 at some stage in their life.

The common types of anxiety disorders are:

  • Generalised anxiety disorder
  • Social phobia or social anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Agoraphobia
  • Specific phobias
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

In some people, anxiety may also be linked to an underlying health issue. For some, this may mean anxiety signs and symptoms are the first indicators of a medical illness. Conditions associated with anxiety can include chronic pain, IBS, drug or alcohol dependence or withdrawal, thyroid problems, heart disease and diabetes. Certain medications can also cause anxiety in some people.

What are the symptoms of anxiety?

Some of the physical symptoms of anxiety can include:

  • Panic attacks
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Sleep issues
  • Stomach issues
  • Lightheadedness 
  • Dizziness
  • Trembling
  • + more

People who have anxiety may also avoid certain situations, such as crowds or social events, and may experience constant feelings of fear, racing thoughts, difficulty concentrating and memory disturbances.

Anxiety symptoms may also vary depending on the type of anxiety disorder someone has, for example:

  • Generalised anxiety disorder may cause excessive worry about a range of issues such as health, work or finances.
  • Social phobia or social anxiety disorder often causes people to avoid social or performance situations for fear of being embarrassed or rejected.
  • Panic disorder can cause regular panic attacks, which are sudden intense episodes of irrational fear, shortness of breath, dizziness and other physical symptoms.
  • Agoraphobia leads people to avoid certain situations due to fear of having a panic attack (often associated with panic disorder).
  • Specific phobias will cause anxiety symptoms in one particular situation or context, such as a fear of animals, insects, places or people. 
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) causes unwanted thoughts and impulses, causing repetitive, routine behaviours as a way of coping with anxiety.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) leads to persistent feelings of fear or avoidance that do not fade after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic life event. PTSD symptoms can include upsetting memories, hypervigilance, flashbacks, nightmares and difficulties sleeping.

How is anxiety typically treated?

Treatments for anxiety are dependent on the patient’s needs, as well as the type and severity of anxiety being experienced. Anxiety treatment may include psychological therapy, lifestyle changes (including sleep, nutrition and exercise), meditation and mindfulness and/or medication, or any combination of those treatments.

Pharmacological treatments like antidepressants and tranquillisers are commonly prescribed to treat symptoms of severe anxiety, panic and stress. For some, these medications can be extremely valuable and even life-saving. They can help patients go about their lives and participate in situations that their anxiety previously prevented. But for others, these treatments come with a wide range of unwanted side effects that make them intolerable. 

These can include:

Potential adverse side effects of antidepressants: 

  • Sleep disturbance
  • Changes in sexual function / desire
  • Loss of full range of emotions
  • Tremors
  • Weight gain
  • Constipation

Potential adverse side effects of long term use of tranquilisers

  • Impaired learning
  • Increased depression
  • Memory loss
  • Increased risk of dementia
  • Increased risk of death (due to tranquiliser’s impact on respiratory drive in brainstem)

The range of negative side effects that standard pharmacological treatments for anxiety can elicit in some patients has led many to seek alternative medicines and options for treatment, from herbal solutions like kava, ashwagandha and lavender supplements to alternative prescriptions like medicinal cannabis.

Can cannabis help treat anxiety?

Anxiety is the second most common condition3 that medicinal cannabis (sometimes referred to as ‘medical marijuana’, learn about the history and implications of this term here) is prescribed to treat in Australia. Both THC- and CBD-dominant cannabis treatments are prescribed to help treat symptoms of anxiety. A 2018–2019 survey4 of 1388 Australian respondents who were self-medicating with (mostly illicit) cannabis also found anxiety to be the most common ‘main condition’ being treated with cannabis. 

While there is conflicting information surrounding cannabis and anxiety, we know that many patients benefit from using medicinal cannabis to treat their anxiety and those that do maintain an ongoing medicinal cannabis treatment plan for anxiety do so because they prefer these treatments to standard or conventional treatments they have previously tried. 

For others, cannabis may not be an effective treatment for anxiety or it may even increase anxiety in some patients. It comes down to the individual, the type and severity of the anxiety, and the type of cannabis medication prescribed to that patient.

One rationale for the use of medicinal cannabis for treating anxiety symptoms stems from the way cannabis interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a biological system present in all humans (and nearly all animals) which regulates numerous physiological processes including mood, appetite, sleep, cognition and immune function. Our ECS and the physiological processes it regulates can be supported through a range of methods and lifestyle changes, including eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, drinking less alcohol and consuming cannabinoids. Preclinical research5 also suggests that the phytocannabinoids found in cannabis (including THC and CBD) can support the production and release of endocannabinoids which may have efficacy in treating anxiety disorders. However more clinical research is required in this area.

Does CBD help with anxiety?

CBD and CBD oil treatments can help manage the symptoms of anxiety in some patients. CBD has been shown to have anxiolytic (anxiety reducing) potential in numerous studies, including a 2015 review6 of 49 primary preclinical, clinical, or epidemiological studies supporting CBD as a treatment for generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder when administered acutely.

This study’s preclinical evidence conclusively demonstrated CBD’s efficacy in reducing anxiety behaviours relevant to the above anxiety disorders with a notable lack of anxiogenic (anxiety causing) effects. 

In 2022, the Cannabidiol Youth Anxiety Pilot Study7 conducted by Orygen also found that CBD may be effective in halving the severity of symptoms and impairment caused by chronic anxiety. The study involved 31 participants aged 12–25 who were recruited from Orygen’s primary care services. The participants had a diagnosed anxiety disorder and had failed to show significant improvement in anxiety severity following at least five cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) sessions.

“Young people with treatment-resistant anxiety had an average 42.6 per cent reduction in anxiety severity and impairment following 12 weeks’ treatment with cannabidiol – a non-intoxicating component of the Cannabis sativa plant which is often referred to as CBD.”

– Orygen, 2022

Orygen’s pilot study found that CBD not only helped to reduce anxiety symptoms, but was also very well tolerated. They noted that they “did not see side-effects like suicidal thoughts, irritability or sleep problems, which are not uncommon in people taking SSRIs.”

CBD works to reduce anxiety in a number of ways. It can activate our serotonin receptors,8 modulate the potential anxiety-inducing effects of THC (thanks to the entourage effect) and reduce the fatty acid amide hydrolase enzyme9 that breaks down one of the body’s own important endocannabinoids – anandamide – which stimulates feelings of happiness and mental wellbeing. Anandamide deficiency has been shown to be a predictor of stress-induced anxiety, with decreased anandamide corresponding to increased anxiety-like behaviours.10 So CBD’s ability to prevent a decrease in anandamide levels makes it a promising treatment for anxiety disorders.

Like with any medication, the effects of CBD will vary depending on the individual and the dose taken.

Does THC help with anxiety?

Like CBD, THC has been shown to have the potential to treat anxiety, depending on the individual patient and the prescribed dosage. A 2019 analysis of 83 eligible studies11 found that ‘pharmaceutical THC (with or without CBD) improved anxiety symptoms among individuals with other medical conditions (primarily chronic non-cancer pain and multiple sclerosis).’ While another 2019 review12 of the evidence supporting the use of THC in PTSD found emerging evidence for positive effects on sleep, nightmares and global PTSD symptoms.

So while there is less evidence to support the use of THC-dominant formulations for anxiety disorders, there is stronger emerging evidence supporting its use in patients with PTSD, as well as anecdotal patient accounts of THC’s efficacy in treating anxiety symptoms.

Unlike CBD which works indirectly with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and our cannabinoid receptors, THC acts directly upon the body’s ECS13 by stimulating our cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2). Because the ECS is responsible for maintaining balance and harmony in the body, the effects of THC will be dose-dependent. Meaning the correct dose of THC can help create balance, while too much THC can cause an imbalance (and potentially increase anxiety). With the help of a prescribing cannabis doctor, therapeutic benefits for anxiety can be achieved by finding the right dose of THC for an individual patient.

It’s important to note that THC can exacerbate anxiety under some conditions and in some patients, and that there are driving restrictions for patients taking THC medications.

Can terpenes in cannabis help with anxiety?

Terpenes are the organic, aromatic compounds found in plants in the form of oils. Essentially, they are what gives a plant its unique flavour and aroma. The cannabis plant alone contains more than 150 terpenes. But beyond just influencing the cannabis plant’s unique taste and smell, terpenes also play a significant role in the therapeutic effects of cannabis by interacting with cannabinoids and other cannabis compounds to create subtle differences in our experience.

On their own, there are a number of terpenes which can reduce anxiety, including linalool (found in lavender, rose and basil), limonene (found in lemon and citrus fruits), beta-caryophyllene (found in black pepper and cloves), myrcene (found in mango, thyme and lemongrass) and more. Each of these terpenes (and many more) can also be found in the cannabis plant. And by interacting with the range of cannabinoids and other compounds found within cannabis, terpenes can create or emphasise particular medicinal or other types of effects, opening up a world of therapeutic combinations for anxiety and many other conditions (again, thanks to the entourage effect).

Just like cannabinoids, your doctor can help you choose an appropriate cannabis treatment based on its terpene profile and the effects these terpenes may have on your specific symptoms or condition. So, if you’re interested in cannabis treatments for anxiety, we highly recommend talking to your doctor about which terpenes and medicinal cannabis formats might be best suited for you and your condition.

Image of the Polln journal showing a diagram of the entourage effect

Can cannabis cause or increase anxiety?

Now that we know medical cannabis has the potential to help treat anxiety in some patients, you might be wondering about some of the conflicting information you’ve seen around whether cannabis can actually cause or increase anxiety in some people.

The simple answer is: yes, cannabis has the potential to cause or increase anxiety in some patients, depending on the type and dose of cannabis administered. 

Let’s break this down into CBD and THC:

CBD → We know now that CBD is a known anxiolytic. Meaning it reduces anxiety with a lack of anxiogenic (anxiety causing) effects. CBD has a narrow side effect profile and does not cause the ‘high’ or any of the impairing effects that are typically associated with certain doses of THC. For these reasons, CBD is not a cannabinoid that is generally known to cause anxiety when taken at recommended doses (which all doctors will follow when prescribing cannabis treatments).

THC → THC is also commonly prescribed to treat anxiety disorders and has been shown to be effective for sleep, relaxation and PTSD. But because THC interacts so directly with the cannabinoid receptors within the endocannabinoid system, it has a stronger impact on the body’s ability to regulate anxiety and may even cause or increase anxiety when taken at too high a dose. With the help of a prescribing doctor, patients can mitigate these side effects by finding the correct product, strain and dose to achieve reduced anxiety levels through their medicinal cannabis treatment plan. But as with any medication or treatment plan, results will vary depending on the individual patient.  

What cannabis formats are best for anxiety?

Cannabis medicine is not a one-size-fits-all approach. This means most doctors will take a unique approach to treating each individual patient they see. Often, doctors will prescribe a combination of THC and CBD to help treat a patient with anxiety. But this will depend on individual factors such as the patient’s driving status and sensitivity to THC. 

Here are some examples of how doctors may prescribe cannabis to help treat anxiety:

Oral cannabis formats (oils, capsules, tablets, edibles): Often prescribed for ongoing anxiety and may contain just CBD or a combination of THC and CBD and other cannabis compounds such as terpenes. It’s common for doctors to prescribe a CBD only or high CBD cannabis treatment during the day to avoid impairment and then a THC/CBD treatment at night to support sleep – these are likely to be in an oil format. The effects of cannabis oils typically last longer than flower, about 6–8 hours.

Cannabis flower (for inhalation with a vaporiser): May also be prescribed for acute anxiety (such as panic attacks) due to rapid onset of effects. For individuals who are sensitive to THC, a high dose CBD flower may be prescribed. The effects of inhaled flower typically last shorter than oils, about 1–2 hours.

Exploring medical cannabis treatment options for anxiety

To be eligible for medicinal cannabis access as a patient in Australia, the TGA states that you must have a chronic medical condition (lasting 3 months or more) that conventional treatments have failed to treat and/or caused you unwanted side effects. Conventional treatments for anxiety may include any combination of psychological, pharmacological, lifestyle, herbal and other treatments that are commonly used to treat anxiety. So, if you have had chronic anxiety symptoms for 3 months or more and you are not satisfied with your current or past treatments, you may be eligible for medicinal cannabis access. 

If you are interested in exploring medical cannabis treatment options for anxiety, the first thing you’ll need to do is talk to a doctor. Our Polln practitioners are experts in medicinal cannabis who can help determine whether cannabis is a suitable treatment option for you, and which type of cannabis treatment might be right for the type of anxiety disorder you’re experiencing.

While cannabis is not a first line treatment in Australia, it is also not a last resort. Meaning you do not need to have exhausted all of your treatment options to be eligible for medicinal cannabis access. If you’re not sure whether you might be eligible, you can take our free eligibility quiz or sign up as a Polln patient to discuss your options with one of our expert doctors. 

–––

References
  1.  MacPhail SL, Bedoya-Pérez MA, Cohen R, Kotsirilos V, McGregor IS, Cairns EA. Medicinal Cannabis Prescribing in Australia: An Analysis of Trends Over the First Five Years. Front Pharmacol. 2022 May 10;13:885655. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2022.885655. PMID: 35620292; PMCID: PMC9127064.
  2.  Health Direct, https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/anxiety. Accessed 2022.
  3.  Berger M, Amminger GP, McGregor IS. Medicinal cannabis for the treatment of anxiety disorders. Aust J Gen Pract. 2022 Aug;51(8):586-592. doi: 10.31128/AJGP-04-21-5936. PMID: 35908759.
  4.  Lintzeris N, Mills L, Suraev A, Bravo M, Arkell T, Arnold JC, Benson MJ, McGregor IS. Medical cannabis use in the Australian community following introduction of legal access: the 2018-2019 Online Cross-Sectional Cannabis as Medicine Survey (CAMS-18). Harm Reduct J. 2020 Jun 8;17(1):37. doi: 10.1186/s12954-020-00377-0. PMID: 32513180; PMCID: PMC7278204.
  5.  Patel S, Hill MN, Cheer JF, Wotjak CT, Holmes A. The endocannabinoid system as a target for novel anxiolytic drugs. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2017 May;76(Pt A):56-66. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2016.12.033. PMID: 28434588; PMCID: PMC5407316.
  6.  Blessing, E.M., Steenkamp, M.M., Manzanares, J. et al. Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Neurotherapeutics 12, 825–836 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1
  7.  Berger M, Li E, Rice S, Davey CG, Ratheesh A, Adams S, Jackson H, Hetrick S, Parker A, Spelman T, Kevin R, McGregor IS, McGorry P, Amminger GP. Cannabidiol for Treatment-Resistant Anxiety Disorders in Young People: An Open-Label Trial. J Clin Psychiatry. 2022 Aug 3;83(5):21m14130. doi: 10.4088/JCP.21m14130. PMID: 35921510.
  8.  De Gregorio D, McLaughlin RJ, Posa L, Ochoa-Sanchez R, Enns J, Lopez-Canul M, Aboud M, Maione S, Comai S, Gobbi G. Cannabidiol modulates serotonergic transmission and reverses both allodynia and anxiety-like behavior in a model of neuropathic pain. Pain. 2019 Jan;160(1):136-150. doi: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000001386. PMID: 30157131; PMCID: PMC6319597.
  9.  de Almeida DL, Devi LA. Diversity of molecular targets and signaling pathways for CBD. Pharmacol Res Perspect. 2020 Dec;8(6):e00682. doi: 10.1002/prp2.682. PMID: 33169541; PMCID: PMC7652785.
  10.  Bluett, R., Gamble-George, J., Hermanson, D. et al. Central anandamide deficiency predicts stress-induced anxiety: behavioral reversal through endocannabinoid augmentation. Transl Psychiatry 4, e408 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/tp.2014.53
  11. Black N, Stockings E, Campbell G, Tran LT, Zagic D, Hall WD, Farrell M, Degenhardt L. Cannabinoids for the treatment of mental disorders and symptoms of mental disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet Psychiatry. 2019 Dec;6(12):995-1010. doi: 10.1016/S2215-0366(19)30401-8. Epub 2019 Oct 28. Erratum in: Lancet Psychiatry. 2020 Jan;7(1):e3. PMID: 31672337; PMCID: PMC6949116.
  12.  Hindocha C, Cousijn J, Rall M, Bloomfield MAP. The Effectiveness of Cannabinoids in the Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): A Systematic Review. J Dual Diagn. 2020 Jan-Mar;16(1):120-139. doi: 10.1080/15504263.2019.1652380. Epub 2019 Sep 3. PMID: 31479625.
  13.  Alger BE. Getting high on the endocannabinoid system. Cerebrum. 2013 Nov 1;2013:14. PMID: 24765232; PMCID: PMC3997295.
Patient Education

Travelling as a medicinal cannabis patient in Australia: what you need to know

Travelling as a medicinal cannabis patient in Australia: what you need to know

As a medicinal cannabis patient with a valid, legal prescription, you are entitled to carry your medication between all states and territories in Australia. But before you travel, there are some things to keep in mind to help you carry your medications safely and responsibly.

In this article, we’ll answer your questions about travelling as a medicinal cannabis patient in Australia.

Can I travel interstate with medicinal cannabis in Australia?

As long as you have a legal prescription from a qualified doctor or healthcare practitioner, you are allowed to travel with your prescribed cannabis medications between all states and territories in Australia. This includes all legally prescribed cannabis medication types, including oils, flower, tablets, wafers and more.

Whenever you’re travelling with your cannabis medications, you should keep them in their original packaging with the pharmacy label attached and carry a photo ID which matches the name on the label. It’s also a good idea to have your prescription or approval letter handy should you need to verify your patient status. If you’re a Polln patient, these will be readily available via the ‘Documents’ and ‘Prescription’ sections of your Polln patient dashboard.

Can I fly with medical cannabis in Australia?

Yes. As a patient, you are allowed to carry your medicinal cannabis treatments onboard when flying between states in Australia. Again, just make sure your medication is in its original packaging with the pharmacy label attached and bring photo ID and any relevant scripts and approval letters to support the fact that you are carrying these treatments legally.

If you’re at an airport, you may still encounter sniffer dogs or law enforcement, especially if you’re travelling with cannabis flower. But, as long as you have your valid prescription and proof of patient status with you, you are permitted to travel with those treatments.

Can I bring my medical cannabis in my carry-on luggage or does it need to be checked on domestic flights?

There are no specific guidelines as to whether you should carry your cannabis medication with you onto the cabin or put it in your checked luggage. You may prefer to keep your medications handy in your carry-on baggage in case you need to take them at the airport or during your flight, or if you’re worried about your luggage going missing. Or, you may be comfortable having your medications in your checked luggage. Either way, you still run the risk of being stopped or having your baggage searched, so always ensure you have documentation to support your legal patient status.

There are airline restrictions for travelling with personal vaporisers. Most airlines require these devices to be in your carry-on baggage and prohibit their use and charging during the flight. Check with your airline prior to flying to find out what their rules are for travelling with personal vaporisers.

Can I travel and/or fly with my vape in Australia?

Legally, you are allowed to carry anything that has been prescribed by your doctor for the treatment of your medical condition. While vapes are not prescribed, if you have a legal vaporiser device that has been authorised or recommended for use with your medication by your doctor, you should be okay to travel with this. 

Polln highly recommends that medicinal cannabis patients who are prescribed a flower for vaporisation use one of the devices listed on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG), including the Volcano Medic, Mighty Medic or Mighty+ Medic by Storz & Bickel.

When it comes to flying with your vape, airlines will have specific rules and guidelines around what you can and can’t do. Most airlines require personal vaporiser devices to be in your carry-on baggage and prohibit their use and charging during the flight. Check with your airline prior to flying to find out what their rules are for travelling with personal vaporisers.

Can I consume my medication while I travel in Australia?

If you’re taking a form of cannabis medication that does not need to be vaporised, such as an oil, topical or a wafer tablet, then you can take your medication just as you would any other medication, based on your prescription and treatment plan. This means you shouldn’t encounter any issues when medicating in public, including at the airport, so long as you can verify your legal patient status if needed.

If you’re vaping in a public smoking area, you will just need to be cautious and ensure no one else is around that could inhale your medication vapour by being in proximity to you. As your medication is prescribed for you and you only, you do need to make sure it is not affecting those around you and only vape in non-crowded public smoking areas or in private.

Remember that driving with any amount of THC in your system is currently illegal Australia-wide. So if you are travelling by car or vehicle you will need to ensure you do not have THC in your system.

How should I store my medication while I travel in Australia?

While travelling, it’s always best to keep your medicinal cannabis treatments in their original packaging with the pharmacy label attached. This will ensure that if you are stopped or have your baggage checked, you can verify your patient status by matching your photo ID to the patient name on the pharmacy label and the medication names listed on your prescription can be aligned with those on the packaging.

As much as possible, you should try to maintain the quality and efficacy of your medication by storing your medication correctly while you travel. For cannabis flower, that means minimising exposure to heat, light and air. For all other medication types, that simply means following the storage guidelines on your medication label.

How much medication should I bring while travelling in Australia?

Ensure you have an adequate supply of your medication to cover you for the duration of your trip – based on your dosing and treatment plan – and take into account any delays you may experience.

If you are a Polln patient who needs to access your medication while travelling, you can easily access repeat scripts and arrange express treatment delivery to wherever you are in Australia by using your Polln patient dashboard or contacting the Care Team. You can also book and attend online consultations from wherever you are, in case you need to speak to your doctor on the go. 

Can I travel with medical cannabis internationally?

Because cannabis laws vary so much between countries and states, flying internationally with medical cannabis as a patient can be both difficult and risky. Before you leave Australia you should contact the Embassy or Consulate of the countries you intend to visit, including any countries where you will have a layover between flights, to find out what restrictions they have for travelling with cannabis medicines. Each country has its own required documentation for customs clearance when carrying medicinal cannabis, and some prohibit medical cannabis entirely.

If you will be away for an extended period of time, you should talk to your doctor about whether you will be able to access your medications should you need them while overseas. If you are unable to bring your cannabis treatments with you or access them while on your trip, you can also talk to your doctor about how to navigate being without your treatments for that period of time.

Travelling with MC in Australia checklist 

If you're travelling with medicinal cannabis as a legal patient in Australia, here are the main things to keep in mind:

  • Always ensure you can access a copy of your TGA approval letter or script outlining your list of approved medications, which will have been provided to you by your doctor or cannabis clinic. Make sure you're carrying some form of ID matching the information on this letter.
  • Keep your medication in its original packaging with the pharmacy label attached so that it can be identified as the medication on your approval letter or script.
  • Remember that while you are permitted to have your treatments with you and to travel with them, there may be restrictions on certain cannabis delivery methods, such as vaping in crowded public areas. 
  • Remember any driving restrictions that exist for your prescribed product will apply Australia-wide.
  • Ensure you have an adequate supply of your medication to cover you for the duration of your trip and account for any delays you may experience so you are not left without your medication.
  • If you've purchased cannabis via an online shop or from overseas, it is probably not legal. So, make sure that you’re only travelling with a product that you’ve obtained legally with a prescription from a healthcare professional.

Travelling within Australia as a Polln patient

If you’re a Polln patient, you'll have easy access to all of your medical cannabis services, including prescriptions, online consultations, Australia-wide express treatment delivery and more, from wherever you are in Australia. So, you can rest assured that your patient documents, doctor’s guidance and cannabis treatments are always just a few clicks away.

If you have repeat scripts on file, the Care Team can arrange invoices and express treatment delivery to wherever you are in Australia. While online consultations can easily be accessed on the go should you need to speak with your doctor or arrange new scripts. 

We highly recommend talking to your doctor about travelling with your medications within Australia so you can travel with confidence. All Polln practitioners are experienced cannabis prescribers who can provide guidance specific to your treatment plan and needs when it comes to travelling as a medical cannabis patient.

If you have any concerns about travelling with your prescribed medications or vaporiser, you can also contact the Care Team for further support.

To talk to a doctor about medicinal cannabis treatments, sign up as a Polln patient or book a consultation today.

Patient Education

Medicinal cannabis and driving: what you need to know as a patient in Australia

Medicinal cannabis and driving: what you need to know as a patient in Australia

As of 2022, there have been more than 248,000 scripts approved1 for medicinal cannabis (also referred to as ‘medical marijiuana’ – learn about the history and implications of this term here) since it was legalised Australia-wide in 2016. 

If you’re one of the thousands of patients living with a chronic condition in Australia who have received a medicinal cannabis prescription, it’s important you’re aware of the rules, risks and restrictions that exist if you are going to drive. Especially if you have been prescribed a cannabis treatment containing THC.

In this article, we’ll answer your questions about driving as a medical cannabis patient in Australia.

Should you drive while taking medicinal cannabis?

Because no two patients are the same, the question of whether or not you should drive while taking medicinal cannabis treatments will also vary from patient to patient, depending on the effects you experience while taking your treatments. Currently in Australia, it is legal for you to drive as a medical cannabis patient as long as you have no amount of the cannabinoid THC in your system. But there are a few other things to consider when deciding whether or not to drive while taking your treatments.

Any time you take your prescribed (non-THC) cannabis treatments or any other medication or legal substance that has an effect on the mind and body, you should wait until you are confident that you are safe to drive and you are not experiencing any impairment or adverse side effects before you do so. You should not drive while impaired by CBD or any substance – even if it is legal for you to have it in your system. So if you are experiencing any symptoms like dizziness, low blood pressure or drowsiness while taking your treatments, you should always consider whether it is safe for you to drive and wait until the effects have worn off and you are feeling better before you get behind the wheel.

The most important restriction to note is that it is currently illegal to drive with any amount of THC in your system in every state in Australia, even with a valid prescription. This means that if you are prescribed a medicinal cannabis product containing THC, you will need to wait until the medication has left your system before you drive. This is challenging given that the amount of time cannabis stays in your system can vary from patient to patient and is dependent on factors like the type of cannabis consumed, the amount of THC in the cannabis, the method used to consume it and the frequency of consumption. But under the current laws in Australia, if you take a medication containing THC and test positive for THC in a mouth swab test, you can lose your licence.

Is it legal to drive while taking CBD?

CBD-containing cannabis treatments that do not contain any THC are legal to have in your system while you drive. You should always know which cannabinoids are in the cannabis treatments you are prescribed and understand the driving restrictions that exist for those treatments as well as the effects you experience when you take them. Some CBD treatments – like CBD oils – do contain THC, while others don’t. Check your treatment label and talk to your doctor before you drive while taking any cannabis treatment.

Even if your prescribed treatment doesn’t contain any THC, you should always pay attention to the effects you experience while taking it and ensure you aren’t driving while impaired. While CBD tends to have a minimal side effect profile, it can cause side effects like drowsiness and fatigue in some patients. Always make sure you feel safe, alert and confident before you get behind the wheel and wait for side effects to wear off before driving.

Is it legal to drive while taking THC?

No. It is not legal to drive with any amount of THC in your system in all states in Australia, even if you are a medicinal cannabis patient with a valid prescription. If you choose to take THC or do not wait long enough for the THC to leave your system before you drive and you test positive for THC in a mouth swab test, you can lose your licence. 

These laws exist because THC is a psychoactive cannabinoid which can affect cognitive and motor skills that are needed for safe driving, including attention, judgement, vision, coordination and memory. However, because THC can be detected in the body for up to weeks after the initial cannabis consumption, these laws can unfortunately unfairly discriminate against legal medicinal cannabis patients who may face fines and loss of their licence even when they are unaffected and unimpaired by their medication at the time of testing. In fact, cannabis is the only legally prescribed medication for which you lose your licence when testing positive for presence, not impairment.

How does cannabis affect driving?

Any substance that has an effect on the mind and body is capable of affecting your ability to drive. This is true of both legally prescribed and recreational substances, as well as both plant-based and standard treatments. So any time you start a new medication or substance, change your dose or make any changes to your treatment plan, you should always wait and ensure you are not experiencing any effects or side effects which may impact your ability to drive before getting behind the wheel. 

When it comes to measuring cannabis impairment, science tells us that there are several factors which play a role – including dose, mode of ingestion, length of treatment and individual factors like weight and metabolism. In 2020, a landmark study led by the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics at the University of Sydney and conducted at Maastricht University in the Netherlands found that CBD does not impair driving, while moderate amounts of THC produce mild driving impairment lasting up to four hours.2 A 2022 study led by the same group found that 1500mg, the highest daily medicinal dose of cannabidiol (CBD), has ‘no impact on people’s driving or cognitive abilities.’3

The results from these studies reassure us that patients using CBD-only products are most likely safe to drive, and help us understand the duration of impairment for patients using THC-dominant products. But since driving laws in Australia use a zero-tolerance policy for THC in drivers, the law still dictates that patients consuming THC should not be driving.

Another 2022 study4 conducted by researchers at the University of Sydney’s Lambert Initiative which analysed all available studies on the relationship between driving performance and concentrations of THC in blood and saliva found ‘blood and oral fluid THC concentrations to be relatively poor or inconsistent indicators of cannabis-induced impairment.’ This is in contrast to the much stronger relationship that can be seen between blood and alcohol concentrations and driving impairment.

‘Higher blood THC concentrations were only weakly associated with increased impairment in occasional cannabis users while no significant relationship was detected in regular cannabis users.’

– Lead author Dr Danielle McCartney, Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics 

So while this research does not suggest there is no relationship between THC intoxication and driving impairment, it does call into question the validity of the methods used to assess cannabis-related impairment in drivers in Australia. This highlights the need for more reliable methods of assessing cannabis-impairment in drivers and a reform of the cannabis-driving laws which unfairly impact patients who are using legal medicinal cannabis products who cannot currently drive, even when they are not impaired.

The findings of this study were reported on The Project, Network 10:

How long after consuming cannabis is it safe to drive?

If you take a medicinal cannabis product which contains none of the cannabinoid THC, such as a CBD-only oil, then it is safe for you to drive provided you are not experiencing any adverse side effects like dizziness or low blood pressure. You only need to wait until you are certain you are not experiencing any side effects which impact driving before you get behind the wheel. CBD-only products will not show up on a drug test and it is legal for you to drive after taking these.

If you take a medicinal cannabis product containing THC, the answer to this question is a little more complicated. Because it is illegal to drive with any amount of THC in your system, and because the amount of time it takes for THC to leave your system varies so much from person to person, there is no definitive answer to how soon you can drive after consuming THC. Although the above research tells us that the impairing effects of THC fade after four hours of having consumed it, Australian police test for THC presence – not impairment – when drug testing drivers. So it’s important to understand how long cannabis can stay in your system before you drive as a cannabis patient who consumes THC.

How long does cannabis stay in your system?

Unfortunately there is no definitive answer to this question, as it varies from individual to individual depending on a range of factors, such as:

  • The amount of THC / cannabis you consume;
  • How often you consume cannabis;
  • Your body fat percentage;
  • Your metabolism;
  • How much exercise you do, and
  • The type and sensitivity of the drug test you take

Generally, random roadside saliva tests can detect THC for about 12 hours5 after use in people who use cannabis less frequently. But for those who frequently use cannabis, such as medicinal cannabis patients who use cannabis to help treat chronic conditions, THC can usually be detected for around 30 hours5 after use. Again, these numbers will vary from person to person.

For other types of drug tests, which may be required in certain workplaces or other settings, cannabis can be detected in your system for even longer, including up to 6 days for blood tests,6 up to a month for urine tests5 and up to 3 months for hair tests.7

Because it is so difficult to know when and if you might legally be able to drive after consuming THC, if you are a medicinal cannabis patient who has to drive frequently for work or other activities, you may want to consider a CBD treatment rather than a THC one under the current driving laws in Australia. Ensure you are open and honest with your prescribing doctor about your driving status and current situation so they can provide you with a treatment plan that works best for you.

Driving and cannabis law reform in Australia through Drive Change

Drive Change is an Australian law reform campaign fighting to give medicinal cannabis patients the same rights as other patients. They are a team of educators and advocates who believe that current drug driving laws ‘fail to improve road safety, discriminate against medical cannabis patients and impede public health outcomes.’

Drive Change proposes equal rights for legal medical cannabis patients through the following solution:

‘The government implements Australia-wide uniform drug driving laws to allow for a complete defence to the presence of THC in a driver’s oral fluid or blood when:

  • The driver has a valid doctor’s prescription for a medicine containing THC;
  • The offence does not involve dangerous or reckless driving; and
  • An officer cannot establish driver impairment.’

Visit Drive Change to learn more about how you can support the campaign and help create equal driving rights for legal medical cannabis patients.

Where can I learn more about the cannabis driving laws in my state?

Click on these resources to learn more about the local driving laws in your state:

New South Wales

Queensland

Victoria

South Australia

Western Australia

Tasmania

ACT

NT

The bottom line

Knowing whether or not you should drive as a medicinal cannabis patient can be difficult. But no matter what your situation is, you should never drive while impaired. Patients who take THC-free / CBD-only medicinal cannabis products can safely and legally drive provided you are not experiencing any adverse side effects that might impede driving ability. But patients taking THC medicinal cannabis products can face fines and even the loss of your licence if any amount of THC is detected in your system in a roadside test.

It’s important that you’re aware of the cannabinoids / ingredients in your prescribed cannabis treatment and any driving restrictions that exist for your treatment in Australia. You should always be honest and open about your driving status, situation and needs as a patient so your doctor can provide you with the best care possible and tailor a treatment plan that works for you. 

To talk to a Polln doctor about medicinal cannabis, sign up as a patient today or make an appointment via your Polln patient dashboard.

Help create equal driving rights for legal medical cannabis patients by visiting Drive Change.

References
  1.  MacPhail Sara L., Bedoya-Pérez Miguel A., Cohen Rhys, Kotsirilos Vicki, McGregor Iain S., Cairns Elizabeth A. Medicinal Cannabis Prescribing in Australia: An Analysis of Trends Over the First Five Years. Frontiers in Pharmacology Volume 13, 2022. DOI=10.3389/fphar.2022.885655, ISSN=1663-9812   
  2.  "Cannabidiol In Cannabis Does Not Impair Driving, Landmark Study Shows". The University Of Sydney, 2022, https://www.sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2020/12/02/Cannabidiol-CBD-in-cannabis-does-not-impair-driving-landmark-study-shows.html. Accessed 16 Aug 2022.
  3.  McCartney D, Suraev AS, Doohan PT, et al. Effects of cannabidiol on simulated driving and cognitive performance: A dose-ranging randomised controlled trial. Journal of Psychopharmacology. May 2022. doi:10.1177/02698811221095356
  4. McCartney D, Arkell T, Irwin C, Kevin R, McGregor I. Are blood and oral fluid Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and metabolite concentrations related to impairment? A meta-regression analysis. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, Volume 134, 2022, 104433, ISSN 0149-7634, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2021.11.004.
  5.  "Roadside Drug Testing - Alcohol And Drug Foundation". Adf.Org.Au, 2022, https://adf.org.au/insights/roadside-drug-testing. Accessed 16 Aug 2022.
  6.  Karschner EL, Schwilke EW, Lowe RH, Darwin WD, Pope HG, Herning R, Cadet JL, Huestis MA. Do Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol concentrations indicate recent use in chronic cannabis users? Addiction. 2009 Dec;104(12):2041-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2009.02705.x. Epub 2009 Oct 5. PMID: 19804462; PMCID: PMC2784185.
  7.  Himanshu Khajuria, Biswa P. Nayak, Detection of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in hair using GC–MS, Egyptian Journal of Forensic Sciences, Volume 4, Issue 1, 2014, Pages 17-20, ISSN 2090-536X, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejfs.2013.10.001.
Medical Conditions, Patient Education

Endometriosis + Medicinal Cannabis: Frequently Asked Questions

Endometriosis + Medicinal Cannabis: Frequently Asked Questions

There are currently over 830,000 people living with endometriosis in Australia.1 Symptoms of endometriosis can be extremely painful and debilitating for those who live with the condition, often causing them to miss out on social, work or other engagements. Without a cure, these symptoms often need to be managed through medical or surgical interventions.

In this article, we’re answering your questions about how medicinal cannabis (also known as ‘medical marijuana’) may be able to help treat the symptoms of endometriosis in some patients – especially severe or chronic pain caused by inflammation and other associated symptoms like poor mental health, sleep issues, gastrointestinal issues and nausea and vomiting.

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a progressive, chronic condition whereby some of the cells similar to those that line the uterus / womb – known as the endometrium – grow elsewhere in the body, especially in the pelvis. These cells respond to messages from the ovaries, despite not being in the uterus, leading to endometriosis tissue bleeding every month when a person has their period. 

This can be extremely painful, affect fertility and prevent those who have the condition from participating fully in their lives. Over time, the condition can cause inflammation and scarring and even cause adhesions, whereby organs stick together in certain places.

About 1 in 9 menstruating people in Australia1 develop endometriosis by the time they are in their 40s, causing tens of thousands of hospitalisations every year. There is no known cure for endometriosis, but some symptoms can be managed through a variety of interventions.

Can medicinal cannabis help treat endometriosis?

Medical cannabis is commonly prescribed to treat some of the symptoms associated with endometriosis and is known to be an effective treatment for many patients. 

A 2017 Australian survey of 484 participants2 aged 18–45 and suffering from endometriosis found that one in ten participants used cannabis to treat their symptoms, citing good efficacy in reducing pain and other symptoms with few adverse effects. Pain reduction, as well as improvements in sleep, nausea and vomiting were the main reasons cited for self medicating with cannabis, with 56% of participants using cannabis having been able to reduce pharmaceutical medications by at least half.

In a separate 2021 study of 252 participants with endometriosis3 cannabis was found to be effective for pelvic pain, gastrointestinal issues and mood, with effectiveness differing based on method of ingestion (such as inhalation or other oral methods). 

Each of us has an endocannabinoid system (ECS) and cannabinoid receptors all over the body, mainly in our central and peripheral nervous systems, immune system and organs. These receptors have also been found in the endometrium and gut linings. Research4 has shown that the endocannabinoid system plays a part in endometriosis, making cannabis treatments (which interact with the endocannabinoid system in numerous ways) valuable treatments to explore when looking at endometriosis. 

The two main cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant are THC and CBD, both of which interact with the cannabinoid receptors found in our body and ECS to produce varying effects. Both THC and CBD can have benefits in the treatment of endometriosis. 

Cannabis is known to have anti-inflammatory properties and studies have shown it is beneficial in treating chronic pain,5 anxiety6 and depression.7 Inflammation, chronic pain and associated comorbidities like mental health issues, anxiety and depression are all symptoms experienced by many living with endometriosis, so cannabis is a viable treatment option for these symptoms. 

Like any medication, medical cannabis will work differently for everyone. Depending on the severity of your condition, the type of treatment prescribed and the individual way it interacts with your body, you may or may not find medical cannabis to be an effective treatment for your endometriosis symptoms.

What type of medical cannabis is best for treating endometriosis symptoms?

Medical cannabis treatments prescribed in Australia can generally be classified as being high THC, high CBD or a combination of THC and CBD, whereby effects will vary depending on the ratio of THC to CBD.

Depending on your medical history and the symptoms you’re experiencing, your doctor may prescribe you a cannabis treatment from one or more of these categories in the format of an oil, flower, or other delivery format. The most common medical cannabis treatment prescribed for endometriosis is a CBD oil taken orally.

CBD and CBD oils are known to have anti-inflammatory and mild analgesic properties, which makes them effective at reducing the pain that many endometriosis patients experience, given inflammation is one of the main reasons patients with endometriosis experience pain.

In Australia, chronic pain patients make up around 60–70% of medicinal cannabis prescriptions.8 So while there is limited research about endometriosis and CBD specifically, we know that many patients in Australia benefit from taking medicinal cannabis treatments like CBD and CBD oil for pain (there is some discussion around the efficacy of varying ratios of THC to CBD in treating endometriosis symptoms in this aforementioned study3).

THC is known for its analgesic and psychotropic properties and is also known to have positive effects in treating many types of pain. In a study which looked at endometriosis in mice,9 THC was found to have analgesic and antispasmodic properties while also inhibiting the development of endometrial cysts. More studies are yet to be done on the effectiveness of THC in inhibiting endometrial cyst development in humans, but these findings are promising. 

Scientists and those in the medicinal cannabis industries believe that using the whole plant – including a range of cannabinoids like THC and CBD, terpenes and other compounds – offers greater health benefits than using specific cannabinoids in isolation. This is known as the ‘entourage effect.’

Are there any side effects associated with using medical cannabis to treat endometriosis?

Like any medication, whether it’s natural or pharmacological, medical cannabis treatments can cause unwanted side effects in some patients.

CBD has a narrow side effect profile, whereas THC can cause more side effects in certain patients. Some patients may experience things like fatigue, dry mouth, lightheadedness or nausea when starting medical cannabis treatment, or other effects which will vary from person to person. With the support of a prescribing practitioner, patients will often be able to resolve these side effects through correct dosing and titration. When taken in conjunction with THC, CBD can help mitigate the negative side effects associated with THC, especially rare symptoms of anxiety (thanks to the entourage effect!). 

Currently, Australian law states that it is illegal to drive with any amount of THC in your system, even if you have a valid prescription and regardless of whether you are impaired or not. This is something patients should consider if they are thinking about accessing medical cannabis treatments for endometriosis.

How does medical cannabis compare with more conventional endometriosis treatments?

Patients with endometriosis often have to manage their symptoms through a combination of lifestyle adjustments, natural medicines, pharmaceutical medicines and surgical interventions. This can look like taking herbal or other supplements, taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) like Ibuprofen and Voltaren or adopting other pain relieving or lifestyle adjustments, such as dietary changes.

However, a large number of endometriosis patients require stronger painkillers, oral or intrauterine contraceptive methods, progesterone hormonal interventions and laparoscopy surgeries to remove endometriosis lesions. A laparoscopy is the only form of treatment that changes the physiology of your body (addressing the root cause), whereas all other forms of treatment support in reducing symptoms. 

Each of these interventions comes with a range of side effects that many patients find intolerable, which may lead to them seeking out other alternative treatments to help manage symptoms, such as medicinal cannabis. Here are some of the side effects patients with endometriosis report experiencing from conventional treatments:

  • Gastric side effects caused by NSAIDs, including inflammation of the lining of the stomach and stomach ulcers from prolonged use.
  • Contraceptive pill side effects, including: headaches, migraines, irregular bleeding, increased blood pressure, nausea, weight gain, mood changes, changes to gut microbiome and nutritional deficiencies.
  • Progesterone method side effects such as thyroid health issues.
  • Laparoscopy side effects including recurring endometriosis symptoms, scarring and other post-surgical complications.

Many patients who use medicinal cannabis to manage the symptoms of endometriosis, especially chronic pain, report experiencing fewer side effects than those seen with their conventional treatments.10

How can I get a prescription for medical cannabis to help treat my endometriosis?

To be eligible for a medical cannabis prescription, the TGA states that a patient must:

  1. Have a chronic condition lasting three months or more 
  2. Have tried other treatments to manage the symptoms of this condition
  3. Have found those treatments to be unsuccessful in treating the condition or to have produced unwanted side effects

If you’re one of the 830,000+ Australians living with endometriosis and you’ve tried one or more of the conventional treatments listed above, or any other treatment, you are likely to be eligible to access medicinal cannabis to help manage your endometriosis symptoms. 

The first thing to do is to talk to your doctor about wanting to try medicinal cannabis. If you’re unsure whether your current doctor can help you access medicinal cannabis, you can book a consultation with one of our Polln Practitioners who specialise in these treatments to discuss whether they might be right for you. 

Why should I get a prescription for medical cannabis instead of just buying CBD oil or cannabis products online or illegally to treat my endometriosis?

Research has shown11 that a significant number of Australians living with endometriosis use cannabis illegally to manage their symptoms. While this demonstrates just how beneficial many patients find cannabis to be in managing their symptoms, it also shows us that many are finding the Australian medical cannabis industry to be too inaccessible, expensive or difficult to navigate and are instead opting for illegal cannabis products purchased online or via the black market. 

Because recreational cannabis is unregulated in Australia, there’s a big risk that your therapeutic goals will not be met by the product you buy without a prescription. This is because the active ingredients in unregulated products have varied concentrations, may differ from what you’ve been told they are, or in some cases may not be present at all. 

When taking cannabis to treat a specific medical condition like endometriosis, it’s important to know exactly which cannabinoids are present within your cannabis, and at what quantity and ratio. Getting a prescription for medicinal cannabis from a licensed healthcare professional is the best way to ensure you’re getting quality, regulated medicine containing the active ingredients you need to treat your condition.

You can read more about buying illegal vs. legal cannabis here.

Treating endometriosis with Polln

While the pathways to access medicinal cannabis haven’t always been clear, things are definitely changing.

At Polln, our biggest mission is to make alternative treatments like medical cannabis more accessible to patients living with debilitating chronic conditions, including endometriosis. If you’re unsure whether your current doctor can help you access medicinal cannabis, you can book a consultation with one of our Polln Practitioners who specialise in these treatments to discuss whether they might be right for you. 

Help end endo

Consider making a donation to help end endo at https://endoaustralia.org.au/

References
  1. Endometriosis Australia. Endo Facts. 2018.
  2.  Sinclair J, Smith CA, Abbott J, Chalmers KJ, Pate DW, Armour M. Cannabis Use, a Self-Management Strategy Among Australian Women With Endometriosis: Results From a National Online Survey. J Obstet Gynaecol Can. 2020 Mar;42(3):256-261. doi: 10.1016/j.jogc.2019.08.033. Epub 2019 Nov 10. PMID: 31722852.
  3.  Sinclair J, Collett L, Abbott J, Pate DW, Sarris J, et al. Effects of cannabis ingestion on endometriosis-associated pelvic pain and related symptoms. 2021. PLOS ONE 16(10): e0258940. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0258940
  4.  Bouaziz J, Bar On A, Seidman DS, Soriano D. The Clinical Significance of Endocannabinoids in Endometriosis Pain Management. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2017 Apr 1;2(1):72-80. doi: 10.1089/can.2016.0035. PMID: 28861506; PMCID: PMC5436335.
  5.  Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), Guidance for the use of medicinal cannabis in the treatment of chronic non-cancer pain in Australia. Version 1, December 2017.
  6.  Shannon S, Lewis N, Lee H, Hughes S. Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series. Perm J. 2019;23:18-041. doi: 10.7812/TPP/18-041. PMID: 30624194; PMCID: PMC6326553.
  7.  Turna J, Simpson W, Patterson B, Lucas P, Van Ameringen M. Cannabis use behaviors and prevalence of anxiety and depressive symptoms in a cohort of Canadian medicinal cannabis users. J Psychiatr Res. 2019 Apr;111:134-139. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2019.01.024. Epub 2019 Jan 31. PMID: 30738930.
  8.  Henderson L, Kotsirilos V, Cairns A, Ramachandran A, Peck C, McGregor I. Medicinal cannabis in the treatment of chronic pain. Australian Journal of General Practice, Volume 50, Issue 10, October 2021, doi: 10.31128/AJGP-04-21-5939 
  9.  Escudero-Lara A, Argerich J, Cabañero D, Maldonado R. Disease-modifying effects of natural Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol in endometriosis-associated pain. 2020, eLife 9:e50356
  10.  Sinclair J, Smith CA, Abbott J, Chalmers KJ, Pate DW, Armour M. Cannabis Use, a Self-Management Strategy Among Australian Women With Endometriosis: Results From a National Online Survey. J Obstet Gynaecol Can. 2020 Mar;42(3):256-261. doi: 10.1016/j.jogc.2019.08.033. Epub 2019 Nov 10. PMID: 31722852.
  11.  "1 In 10 Women With Endometriosis Report Using Cannabis To Ease Their Pain". The Conversation, 2019, https://theconversation.com/1-in-10-women-with-endometriosis-report-using-cannabis-to-ease-their-pain-126516. Accessed 16 Aug 2022.
Medical Conditions, Patient Education

Chronic pain – what it is and how medical cannabis can help relieve symptoms in some patients.

Chronic pain – what it is and how medical cannabis can help relieve symptoms in some patients.

Chronic pain syndrome is a condition affecting millions of Australians daily. About half of all medicinal cannabis patients in Australia are prescribed cannabis treatments to help relieve the symptoms of chronic pain. 1

In this blog post we’ll explore what chronic pain is and how medicinal cannabis (also known as ‘medical marijuana’) can help relieve pain and discomfort in some patients.

What is chronic pain?

Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts for at least three months. It may be a consistent or intermittent pain that comes and goes without apparent cause, and it can occur in nearly any part of your body. Chronic pain is distinct from acute pain – such as pain from an injury that develops quickly and then subsides – in that it persists beyond the normal healing time of an injury or illness. 

What are the types of chronic pain?

There are several different types of chronic pain, including bone, muscle or joint pain, nerve pain and pain due to cancer. Some of the most common types of chronic pain include:

  • Back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Neuropathic pain
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Fibromyalgia pain
  • Arthritic or joint pain
  • Musculoskeletal pain
  • Neurogenic pain
  • Cancer pain

Chronic pain can be caused by an illness such as migraine, arthritis or a musculoskeletal condition, or may be a lingering result of an injury or surgery. However, sometimes there is no apparent cause of chronic pain, making treatment extremely difficult.

What are the signs and symptoms of chronic pain?

The signs and symptoms associated with chronic pain will depend on the type of chronic pain you are experiencing. For example, if you have chronic pain in your lower back, you may experience pain that runs from the lower back and down your legs, while an injury or issue in the neck may cause pain in various other parts of the body. Other symptoms associated with chronic pain may include:

  • Pains, aches and burning sensations
  • Sleep problems
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mood problems
  • Loss of energy
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased activity
  • Pins and needles
  • + more

Acute pain, such as pain from an injury, surgery or illness, can develop into chronic pain syndrome if left untreated or not treated correctly. The longer acute pain remains untreated, the greater the risk of the pain becoming chronic and more difficult to treat. 

When should I seek treatment for pain?

If you are experiencing pain that persists beyond the normal healing time of an injury or illness, or that has no apparent cause, is worsening or is not responding to simple treatment, then it may be time to see a doctor. 

While there are no definitive guidelines for when to seek help for pain or chronic pain, if the pain is persistent and is impacting things like your mood, quality of life and sleep, then a visit to the doctor might be needed to help determine the cause and appropriate treatment for your pain. 

How is chronic pain traditionally treated?

The main goal in chronic pain treatment is to treat the underlying cause of the pain, rather than just the pain symptoms. This means there are a range of surgical and non-surgical treatment methods employed to treat chronic pain, depending on the cause of the pain itself. Non-surgical treatments like physiotherapy and both over-the-counter and prescription medications are some of the most common treatments for chronic pain.

All medications can cause adverse side effects, from over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen to stronger prescription pain medications like opioids. When it comes to pain relief medication, opioids in particular are associated with a range of mild to severe adverse effects – from dizziness and nausea to dependence and fatal overdose. In fact, in 2018 opioids accounted for just over 3 deaths per day in Australia, with the majority of these opioid-induced fatalities being unintentional overdoses involving the use of pharmaceutical opioids, often in the presence of other substances.2 It is for these reasons that opiate medications are not always seen as a suitable or preferable treatment option for many patients suffering from chronic pain, leading some patients to seek alternative therapeutic options.

Is cannabis prescribed for chronic pain in Australia?

About half of all medical cannabis patients in Australia are prescribed medical cannabis to treat chronic pain symptoms, making chronic non-cancer pain the number one category for medicinal cannabis approvals in Australia. The treatment of chronic pain with medicinal cannabis has been shown to result in improved pain and functional outcomes. With one 2016 study of 274 participants3 finding that medical cannabis reduced pain symptoms, pain severity and pain interference with daily tasks in most patients, and even resulted in a significant reduction in opioid use.

In 20174 the Australian Government Department of Health commissioned a team from the University of New South Wales, University of Sydney and University of Queensland under the coordination of the National Drug and Alcohol Council (NDARC) to review the available evidence for the use of medicinal cannabis in patients with chronic non-cancer pain (CNCP).

A meta-analysis of all randomised studies in CNCP averaging across all medicinal cannabis treatments indicated that “medicinal cannabis was more likely than placebo to produce 30% and 50% reductions in pain scores and more likely than placebo to produce a significantly greater reduction in pain intensity ratings.”

The TGA has approved medicinal cannabis as a treatment for over 130 conditions, including chronic pain. The types of chronic pain cannabis may treat are nerve pain, arthritic pain, cancer pain and musculoskeletal pain. However, there is no specific list of conditions or types of chronic pain that the TGA has approved for medical cannabis treatment. This means that a prescribing doctor will need to assess you on an individual basis to determine whether medicinal cannabis treatment may be right for you and your chronic pain symptoms.

Cannabinoids for pain relief

The two main cannabinoids found in cannabis – cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – can help with relieving pain both on their own and when taken in conjunction. Depending on the individual patient and their symptoms, condition and type of chronic pain, a doctor may prescribe CBD, THC or a treatment containing both cannabinoids to help relieve pain symptoms. 

Here are some of the varying ways THC and CBD interact with the body to relieve pain in some patients:

CBD

  • Has an analgesic or pain relieving effect
  • May interact with cannabinoid receptors indirectly to regulate pain
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Non-psychotropic (won’t get you high)

THC

  • Has an analgesic or pain relieving effect
  • Works directly with cannabinoid receptors to help with communication between nerve cells to relieve the perception of pain
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Psychoactive (produces a ‘high’ feeling)

Like any medication, cannabinoid treatments may not work for everyone and are not guaranteed to relieve chronic pain symptoms.

In some patients, using a combination of CBD and THC may lead to a better result and greater relief from their symptoms – this is known as the ‘entourage effect’ where different components of the cannabis plant work synergistically to enhance their overall therapeutic benefits.

Exploring medical cannabis treatment options for chronic pain

To be eligible for medicinal cannabis access as a patient in Australia, the TGA states that you must have a chronic medical condition (lasting 3 months or more) that conventional treatments have failed to treat and/or caused you unwanted side effects. Therefore if you have had chronic pain symptoms for 3 months or more and you are not satisfied with your current or past treatments, you may be eligible for medicinal cannabis access.

If you are interested in exploring medical cannabis treatment options for chronic pain, the first thing you’ll need to do is talk to a doctor. Our Polln practitioners are experts in medicinal cannabis who can help determine whether cannabis is a suitable treatment option for you, and which type of cannabis treatment might be right for the type of chronic pain you’re experiencing.

While cannabis is not a first line treatment in Australia, it is also not a last resort. Meaning you do not need to have exhausted all of your treatment options to be eligible for medicinal cannabis access. If you’re not sure whether you might be eligible, you can take our free eligibility quiz or sign up as a Polln patient to discuss your options with one of our expert doctors. 

References
  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019. Canberra: AIHW; 2020.
  2. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Opioid-induced deaths in Australia. 2019
  3. Haroutounian S, Ratz Y, Ginosar Y, Furmanov K, Saifi F, Meidan R, Davidson E. The Effect of Medicinal Cannabis on Pain and Quality-of-Life Outcomes in Chronic Pain: A Prospective Open-label Study. Clin J Pain. 2016 Dec;32(12):1036-1043. doi: 10.1097/AJP.0000000000000364. PMID: 26889611.
  4. Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), Guidance for the use of medicinal cannabis in the treatment of chronic non-cancer pain in Australia. Version 1, December 2017.
Patient Education

The language of cannabis: understanding the history and racial implications of the term ‘marijuana’

The language of cannabis: understanding the history and racial implications of the term ‘marijuana’

‘Cannabis’ and ‘marijuana’ are terms used more or less interchangeably in the cannabis industry, but a growing debate has emerged around the use of the term ‘marijuana’ within industry and healthcare settings.

At a time when cannabis arrests still disproportionately affect minorities, when racism continues to have an effect on cannabis research1 and when racial bias in healthcare leads to poorer outcomes and lower-quality care for racial and ethnic minorities, is it time for the industry to retire a word with a discriminatory past?

What are the origins of the word marijuana?

Historian, scholar and author Isaac Campos attributes the origins of the word marijuana to botanists conducting research in Mexico in the 1850s. In his book, Home Grown: Marijuana and the Origins of Mexico’s War on Drugs, Campos found that these early researchers discovered that the local population had begun referring to the plant previously known as ‘pipiltzintzintlis’ by a new name – ‘mariguana’ – which would then go on to ‘conquer the lexica of most of the Western Hemisphere.2 The exact origins of the word prior to this usage are unknown.

So while the term has been abused for political aims and to stigmatise and incite xenophobia against the plant and the people associated with it since the 20th century, marijuana is itself a term indigenous to Mexicans that did not originate as a slur, one that has had cultural and historical validity since at least the 1800s.

How has the term been demonised?

Throughout the 19th century, medical journal articles, news reports, advertisements and medication packaging in the West almost exclusively used the terms ‘hemp’ and ‘cannabis’ to refer to the plant. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that the term ‘marijuana’ came into use in the US, namely because anti-cannabis groups sought to frame cannabis as a threat to American notions of whiteness and purity of the time. Thus the term was intentionally used to align the cannabis plant with Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in order to play off anti-immigrant sentiments, incite xenophobia and demonise the plant.

Prior to the 1930s, the term held few negative connotations. But this incitement of fear and bigotry by anti-drug campaigners, coupled with the 1925 Geneva Convention and global moral panic surrounding the drug itself, played a large part in the resulting state restrictions of the plant before it was federally prohibited in the US. This then contributed to the ongoing and disproportionate criminalisation of racial minorities who use the drug, despite usage rates being almost the same between white and non-white people.

Does it matter who is using the term?

The cultural position and intent of the speaker as well as the context they are in are important things to consider when we look at who is using the term ‘marijuana.’ Is the term being used to celebrate or appreciate its origins? Is it merely being used to describe the plant? Is it being appropriated by a business or brand to sell a product? Or, is it being used as a slur or a way to demonise the plant or the person consuming it? These questions, alongside the question of who is speaking, can help us to understand when the term might be appropriate, and when it might be offensive. 

Something important to consider here is that unlike some slurs – which often have offensive origins but may have been reclaimed by the community they once targeted (for example, the word ‘queer’) – the term marijuana did not originate as a slur. It is only through its discriminatory usage by white people in positions of power that the word developed its problematic history. It is understandable then that many would object to the use of the term by people and organisations who hold privilege or power, who are ignorant to the word’s problematic history, or who use the term without acknowledging its past and the ongoing discrimination that has resulted from it.

How can we use the word ‘marijuana’ responsibly?

For many communities – especially those disproportionately affected by cannabis stigma and criminalisation – ‘cannabis’ is not a word people feel connected to, whereas ‘marijuana’ may hold more cultural and historical significance. It can be argued that labelling the term marijuana as racist or cancelling the term altogether would both alienate these communities and erase the complicated history of the term and the impact it has had on them. 

Today, in Australia and across the world, many still use the term ‘marijuana’ or ‘medical marijuana’ when searching for information about cannabinoid medicines and treatment. By erasing the word marijuana altogether, healthcare providers and medicinal cannabis companies risk losing a portion of their audience – that is, patients who may not be able to find accurate, up to date information about the options available to them. It’s important then to consider how we in the industry use language to talk about our products and services, so that they remain accessible to all who need them. 

Where to from here?

Ultimately, it is up to the people and communities most impacted by the discriminatory use of a term to determine how it should be used, and who should use it. But these communities are not a monolith, and there is no singular answer to the question of whether the term ‘marijuana’ is an offensive one. Ongoing discussions around the language and words we use, how we use them, and how their meanings may evolve over time are essential in order to acknowledge the harms that have been caused while working towards a more inclusive, just and safe future for cannabis patients and users in Australia and beyond.

Where we stand

At Polln, our biggest mission is to make natural therapies more accessible to the patients who need them while overcoming the stigma and biases that exist for medicinal cannabis patients and patients from all backgrounds who seek to access the quality care they need. We do this by prioritising diversity and inclusion at all levels of our business – from our doctors to our Care Team, business leaders and coordinators – and by putting our patients’ needs above all else. 

While we as a team are predominantly ‘cannabis-first' when we talk about cannabinoid treatments and therapies, we acknowledge the need to make our services and content as inclusive as possible. With marijuana still being a highly searched term, we will use it from time to time throughout our Library to include those patients who may be searching for valuable health information about these treatments. With this article, we hope to provide some context and educate our community on the history of the term so that they can make informed decisions about the language they choose to use when they talk about cannabis. 

As a business in the healthcare and medical cannabis industries with an understanding of our privilege and position, we do not wish to claim, misuse or appropriate the term ‘marijuana’ by using it to talk about medicinal cannabis in Australia. Instead, we opt for the scientific name – ‘cannabis’ or ‘Cannabis sativa’ – throughout our website, services and patient interactions. We will always remain open to the discourse surrounding this topic and encourage our patient community to do the same! And, as always, we welcome all thoughts and feedback.

To learn more about our values and commitment to a more inclusive healthcare, head to our About page.

References
  1. Solomon R. Racism and Its Effect on Cannabis Research. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2020 Feb 27;5(1):2-5. doi: 10.1089/can.2019.0063. PMID: 32322671; PMCID: PMC7173675.
  2. Campos, I. Home grown: Marijuana and the origins of Mexico's war on drugs. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. 2012.
Patient Education

Keeping medicinal cannabis fresh – why storage matters

Keeping medicinal cannabis fresh – why storage matters

Like any plant, as soon as the cannabis plant has been harvested and is no longer receiving nutrients from the root it was once attached to, it begins to degrade.

Once your flower has been harvested, dried and prepared for medicinal use, its optimal freshness zone becomes a finite window that can only be extended through proper storage methods.

Knowing how to keep your flower fresh will help you ensure your medicinal cannabis treatments maintain their quality and efficacy over time, allowing you to get the greatest therapeutic benefits out of your medication.

5 things to consider when storing your medicinal cannabis flower

1. Light: studies have found exposure to sunlight and UV rays to be the leading factor in cannabinoid deterioration once cannabis is harvested. Keep your cannabis fresh by storing it in a cool, dark place away from sunlight, or in a UV-proof storage container.

2. Air: exposure to oxygen greatly accelerates the degradation process of cannabis, so it's best stored in an airtight container (or, even better, one with an airtight vacuum seal).

3. Humidity: the ideal relative humidity zone for cannabis is 59–63%. Storing your cannabis at this humidity level will prevent it from becoming either too dry (which weakens the bud structure) or too moist (which makes it susceptible to mould). Again, storing your cannabis in an airtight container in a cool, dark place will help you maintain an ideal humidity level.

4. Temperature: Cannabis is best stored at or below 21°C. To maintain the quality of your flower, never store cannabis treatments near heat or above kitchen or other appliances, as the heat will rise and cause your flower to dry out. You should also avoid storing your cannabis treatments in the fridge or freezer, as fluctuating temperature and humidity can reduce its quality and cannabinoid content and increase the risk of mould.

5. Odour: if you need to store your medicinal cannabis treatments discreetly, you may want to opt for a smell-proof storage container that contains the odour of the cannabis flower. Odour-proof storage can help keep your medicinal cannabis treatments safe and out of the wrong hands.

Polln recommends: Staze*

At Polln, we want to ensure our patients get the most out of their medicinal cannabis treatments. We've partnered with Staze because their vacuum seal jars are among the best methods of storage for maintaining cannabis quality, efficacy and cannabinoid content. Meaning our patients get the therapeutic experience and benefits they deserve. Every time.

With such a wide range of cannabis brands and packaging coming out in Australia, we discovered that many of our patients were finding it more difficult than it needed to be to carry or have a smaller dose available while keeping their treatments discreet and out of the wrong hands (and away from children). This was especially true for patients receiving treatments packaged in large mylar bags! After receiving this feedback, we wanted to provide our patient community with a storage option that maintains their plant’s integrity and quality and protects the flower from being crushed while remaining discreet and odour-proof.

With a considered design that eliminates exposure to light and air and prevents odours from escaping, Staze ensures the work your cannabis growers put in, stays in.

Staze features:

  • Airtight vacuum seal: built-in hand operated vacuum pump locks in freshness by removing all air to extend the life of your cannabis flower
  • Activated carbon filter: placed inside the cap to prevent odours from escaping for added discretion and portability
  • UV protection: opaque jar protects your cannabis treatments from harmful light exposure
  • Aesthetic design: sleek and minimal, Staze is designed to fit in the palm of your hand with a comfort grip for added functionality
  • Air removal indicator: pumping motion activates a clicking noise once vacuum seal is reached to indicate that your cannabis flower is now safely stored and protected

Get to know Staze at Shop Polln.

*Disclaimer: Patients in Australia should ensure they are always travelling with their cannabis treatments in their original pharmacy packaging accompanied by any relevant supporting documents, such as prescription or approval letter.

Storing other cannabis formats

If you’ve been prescribed another type of cannabis treatment, such as an oil or a capsule, you will simply need to follow the storage instructions written on the box or packaging that your medication came in from the pharmacy.

You will likely not need to explore alternative storage options like you might use for cannabis flower, but instead focus on storing your treatments at the correct temperature and away from direct sunlight or moisture.

Patient Education

How to talk to a loved one who doesn't support your medicinal cannabis use

How to talk to a loved one who doesn't support your medicinal cannabis use

While public perceptions are shifting around the use of cannabis to treat a growing list of conditions, many still understand cannabis through the lens of stigma, misinformation and its history of criminalisation.

You might find that your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and other family members have different opinions about your medicinal cannabis use than your friends and your healthcare providers do. 

If you're dealing with a loved one who doesn't support your medicinal cannabis use and it's affecting your relationship or wellbeing, here are five things you can do:

1. Start with a conversation. 

Change begins one person at a time, so why not start with a one-on-one conversation? You can ask your loved one to share what they know about medicinal cannabis and try to get them to open up to you about how they formed their strong opinions on cannabis use. Try to come to the conversation with an open mind and a will to understand your loved one’s experiences, and ask that they try and do the same for you. You might like to start by opening up about your health and medical condition and how it has been impacting your life and wellbeing prior to trying medicinal cannabis.

2. Try to understand their point of view

Perhaps your loved one grew up in a time where cannabis was demonised, or maybe they knew someone who had an unhealthy relationship with recreational drugs. It’s possible they’ve even tried cannabis recreationally themselves and had a bad experience! Whatever their background with cannabis is, try to understand where they're coming from without judging their beliefs or experiences. This will help you understand where to start with educating your loved one on the benefits and history of medicinal cannabis and debunking any misinformation they have come to rely on.

3. Back yourself with research

There are a wide range of studies, statistics and resources exploring the history, safety, benefits and medicinal uses of cannabis today and throughout human history. If you're going to try and educate your loved one and clear up misinformation, try to back yourself with the right research and resources to help you speak from a place of understanding. 

Some reputable places to source your medicinal cannabis information from are peer-reviewed medical journals, university departments or initiatives dedicated to researching cannabinoid therapies, peer-reviewed articles about cannabis clinical trials and any reputable platform or initiative dedicated to exploring the benefits and uses of medicinal cannabis (always check any references they’ve provided to ensure they’re coming from reputable sources).

You might like to talk about how cannabis has been used as a medicine throughout human history, or how many countries have legalised cannabis as a medicine today. You can point to studies where cannabis has shown to be beneficial in treating or mitigating the symptoms of certain conditions, such as your own condition or even a condition your loved one suffers from, if you feel comfortable. 

You might want to share the studies and information you come across with your loved one for them to look at on their own time so they can read and digest the information when they’re ready.

4. Speak from experience

If you feel comfortable talking about your medicinal cannabis use, sharing how your medicinal cannabis treatment has helped you in managing or healing your condition can help your loved one understand your cannabis use on a personal level. You might talk about positive changes you've seen, how the treatments compare with other conventional treatments you've tried and how they've impacted your life overall. 

If, for example, your medical cannabis treatment has helped improve your relationships with others by lessening the symptoms of anxiety or chronic pain, then you might talk about how medical cannabis has allowed you to spend more time or improved the time you spend with your loved ones, family and friends. You might talk about how it’s allowed you to do better at work, participate in activities or any other benefit your treatment has had on your symptoms and lifestyle. You may also like to talk about how other treatments you’ve tried were less effective or produced adverse side effects that were worse than those you’ve experienced with medical cannabis.

Anything you can share that will challenge your loved one’s ideas about how cannabis affects users will help break down any stigmas they’ve learned to associate with cannabis and help them understand your decision.

5. Trust yourself and your experience

We can’t always change the minds of people with strongly-rooted beliefs. And that’s okay. How you choose to look after your health, as long as it is safe and legal, is entirely your decision. If you feel you’ve done all you can to change your loved one’s mind and you still haven’t seen eye to eye, trust that you and your doctor know what’s best for your health, and you don’t need to involve anyone who isn’t your healthcare provider, legal carer or guardian (if you are underage) in your healthcare decisions.

Even if your loved one hasn’t come around to the idea of your medical cannabis use right away, you may have made more progress than you think in shifting their beliefs. As time goes by and these treatments become more mainstream and readily available, you may find your loved one becoming more and more open to the idea of your medical cannabis use. In the meantime, try to learn to agree to disagree and remember there is a large community of patients, practitioners, scientists, pharmacists, growers, researchers and healthcare providers who can advocate for the uses and benefits of medical cannabis in treating a wide range of conditions.

Let’s break down the medicinal cannabis stigma, one conversation at a time.

Medical Cannabis Access, Patient Education

Buying cannabis in Australia: Legal vs. illegal and what you need to know

Buying cannabis in Australia: Legal vs. illegal and what you need to know

The medical cannabis system in Australia hasn’t always been easy to navigate. With many still finding the pathways to accessing medicinal cannabis confusing and frustrating, and with Australian medical and legal attitudes towards cannabis being somewhat behind those of other countries, it’s no surprise that people are still turning to illegal pathways to access their cannabis products. 

While recreational cannabis remains illegal in all states and territories except the ACT, medical cannabis is legal Australia-wide. Medicinal cannabis is any cannabis product prescribed by a qualified doctor to relieve the symptoms of a medical condition. And recreational cannabis is the illegal use (at the time of writing in Australia) of cannabis for any purpose, including social, pleasure, creativity, relaxation and/or self-medication. Cannabis is sometimes also referred to as 'marijuana' – learn about the history and implications of this term here.

In this article, we’ll answer some of your questions about accessing medical cannabis in Australia so you can make informed decisions about what you’re buying when it comes to your health.


What are the differences between medical and recreational cannabis, besides how you access them?

The differences between the regulated cannabis products you can get with a prescription and the black-market products you might get from other sources run deeper than just who you get them from. The biggest differences between the two are quality, regulation, cost, and assurance and consistency regarding the active ingredients (cannabinoids) found within the product. 

Put simply: with a medicinal cannabis prescription, you might pay more, but you’ll know exactly what you’re getting. When you buy cannabis illegally, you often won’t.

This may not be an important consideration for people who use cannabis for more recreational purposes like socialising or getting high. But for those who use cannabis to relieve the symptoms of a medical condition like anxiety or chronic pain, knowing what’s in your product and what dose you should be taking can make a big difference to your health.

Because recreational cannabis is unregulated in Australia, there’s a big risk that your therapeutic goals will not be met by the product you buy without a prescription. This is because the active ingredients in unregulated products have varied concentrations, may differ from what you’ve been told they are, or in some cases may not be present at all. 


Why are active ingredients in cannabis important?

When treating a medical condition or taking cannabis for a specific purpose like relaxation or boosting creativity, it’s important to consider which cannabinoids are active within the product you’re taking. Knowing what’s in your product will help you ensure that your therapeutic or other goals are met, and that you’ll be less likely to experience any unwanted effects associated with specific cannabinoids.

In Australia, medicinal cannabis is categorised into three different types. These are:

  • Mainly THC
  • Mainly CBD
  • THC and CBD combination

How you experience your product will depend on the cannabinoids present, what dose you take, how it is taken and the quality of the product itself. For example, if your product contains mainly CBD, you won’t experience psychoactive effects. You may experience medicinal benefits such as pain or anxiety reduction, improved sleep, relaxation and/or relief from other symptoms associated with a specific medical condition. If your product contains mainly THC, you may also experience pain relief, reduced nausea or other medicinal benefits depending on your health condition/s. You will also likely experience the ‘high’ associated with THC, given its psychoactive properties. 

When you access cannabis legally, you may be prescribed CBD, THC or a medication containing a combination of both, depending on the condition you’re treating. If you’re going to use cannabis as a medication, speaking with your medical professional is your best bet for ensuring you’re getting the treatment and care you need.


Is CBD oil legal in Australia?

At the time of writing in Australia, CBD oil is legal with a prescription – just like any other medicinal cannabis product. As of 2021, you can legally purchase low-dose CBD (containing 98% cannabidiol and no more than 2% of other cannabinoids) over the counter at pharmacies without a prescription, however there are regulatory hurdles still to be cleared before you’ll see these products become available. And many experts are questioning the effectiveness of CBD oil at such a low dose, meaning more research is still to be done.

CBD oil has quickly become one of the most popular and sought after health products in Australia. But as the cannabis industry grows, so does the spread of false promises misinformation. Because of the lack of clarity around the laws and pathways to buying regulated CBD oil in Australia, many have turned to online sellers to buy their products. And this comes at a risk. 

With the abundance of unregulated CBD oil products online claiming to cure everything from cancer to diabetes, it’s easy to see why Australians are choosing to buy their products from local or overseas websites. The important thing to note here is that buying any product online that actually contains CBD is technically illegal in Australia. Many buyers are aware of this and may choose to still buy online due to cost and convenience, however many are unaware that the products they are purchasing – if they do contain CBD – are illegal. If you are buying reputable products from overseas, you might want to consider whether the costs are actually that different to obtaining a prescription and purchasing regulated medicinal cannabis in Australia, as the prices often don’t vary much per mg level. 

If you are buying CBD oil from local Australian websites, you are either buying products which do contain CBD (and are therefore illegal) or you are buying products which do not contain any CBD, but say they do (meaning you’re being lied to). In fact, in Australia, there’s a 1 in 4 chance that the CBD oil you buy online is ‘not what you think it is in terms of strength and potency’ and a 1 in 9 chance that you’re being sold an entirely fake product. 

As with any treatment, the best way to ensure you’re getting what you need in terms of quality and effectiveness is to speak with a health professional.


Where can you get medical cannabis in Australia?

To legally access medicinal cannabis products in Australia, you need a prescription from a qualified doctor. While many Australian doctors are still uncomfortable or unfamiliar with prescribing medicinal cannabis, there are a number of doctors who specialise in medical cannabis prescribing – often called cannabis doctors – who are familiar with the many health benefits that these treatments can offer. The best way to access medical cannabis is to find a trusted doctor – either your current GP or an authorised prescriber such as our Polln Practitioners – and discuss your current condition/s and why medicinal cannabis might be right for you.

The bottom line

When buying cannabis in Australia, it’s important to consider what you’re using it for and whether things like active compounds, quality, regulation and consistency of the product are important to you and your needs. This is especially true if you are using cannabis to treat a medical condition. While the pathways to accessing medicinal cannabis in Australia have not always been clear, the rise of cannabis clinics and increasing government action and public awareness about the benefits of these products is making it easier for patients to access the treatments they need.

At Polln, our biggest mission is to make alternative treatments like medical cannabis more accessible to patients living in Australia. If you’re unsure whether your current doctor can help you access medicinal cannabis, you can book a consultation with one of our Polln Practitioners who specialise in these treatments to discuss whether they might be right for you. 

Medical Cannabis Access

Accessing Medicinal Cannabis in Australia

Accessing Medicinal Cannabis in Australia

Over 130 conditions have already been approved for prescriptions, but many doctors and patients are still unsure about how to access medical cannabis treatments. 

In this article we’ll help you understand your options and eligibility when it comes to accessing medical cannabis as a patient in Australia.

What is medicinal cannabis?

Medicinal cannabis (also referred to as ‘medical marijuana’) is any cannabis product approved for therapeutic use and prescribed by a doctor to alleviate the symptoms of a medical condition. One of the main differences between prescribed cannabis products and recreational cannabis, which is often used to self-medicate, is that prescriptions are made with individual patients' needs and symptoms in mind. Because recreational cannabis is unregulated in Australia, you won't have transparency around the origins, cannabinoid content, quality or safety of what you're consuming. But because medical cannabis is highly regulated in Australia, all prescribed cannabis treatments available to Australians have passed stringent tests for quality, content and safety. Meaning you'll know exactly what you're getting and how it can help with your individual symptoms and medical condition/s.

In Australia, medicinal cannabis mostly fits into three categories – mainly CBD, mainly THC, and a mix of CBD and THC. These are the main chemical compounds found in cannabis plants that are most commonly used for medicinal purposes, though other ingredients – like terpenes and flavonoids – are also important.

While recreational cannabis use (any use of cannabis without a prescription) remains illegal in all states and territories except ACT, medical cannabis is legal in every state in Australia.

Is medicinal cannabis legal in Australia? 

Medicinal cannabis has been legal Australia-wide since 2016. It is considered an ‘unapproved’ medicine. So, to access it, your doctor must gain approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration — the regulatory body that doctors apply to when seeking approval for patient prescriptions.

Am I eligible for medicinal cannabis?

So, you’ve learnt what medical cannabis is… but are you eligible? 

Even though medical cannabis has been legal for over five years now, there are still many misconceptions about who can obtain prescriptions.

Although it is always best to learn about the process and eligibility criteria yourself, it is your prescribing doctor’s responsibility to assess your condition and decide whether medicinal cannabis would be beneficial for you.

Criteria may sound like a daunting word to come up against when seeking out treatments, but don’t let it scare you away. The boxes you need to check off when considering your eligibility are: 

  • You have a chronic medical condition – (e.g. have your symptoms been with you for over three months?)
  • You have tried other treatments,
  • Other treatments haven’t alleviated your symptoms or;
  • Other treatments have had adverse effects, or you are concerned about the side effects of treatments suggested to you.

To see if you might be eligible for medicinal cannabis access, you can take our free eligibility quiz or simply sign up as a patient to chat with one of our expert Polln doctors.

Pathways to access 

If you’re a patient considering medicinal cannabis, there are three pathways you can take to access it:

  • Special Access Scheme
  • Authorised Prescriber
  • Clinical trials 

Special Access Scheme 

Like other prescription medicines, your doctor can write a prescription for you after assessing your eligibility, medical condition/s, and other treatments you have tried. The Special Access Scheme allows your doctor to obtain approval to prescribe medicinal cannabis from the Therapeutics Goods Administration (TGA). Once the TGA approves your doctor’s request, your doctor can organise access to treatments and write up prescriptions.  

While this might sound complicated, it is the most commonly used pathway to access medicinal cannabis. Unfortunately, many GPs aren’t well informed or prepared to go through this process with patients, so this pathway might not always be accessible. Although reliable information is shared more regularly now, stigma and misinformation still get in the way of patients seeking support.

If you are unsure whether your current GP can help you access medicinal cannabis, you can make an appointment to speak with one of our expert Polln practitioners who are experienced in prescribing medicinal cannabis treatments.

Authorised Prescriber

An Authorised Prescriber (AP) is a doctor who has already applied for and received the authority from the TGA to write prescriptions for specified patients. These practitioners don’t need to apply for approval from the TGA for individual patient prescriptions as they are pre-approved.

One of the benefits of taking this pathway is that APs are experts in prescribing medicinal cannabis and can write prescriptions as soon as they have assessed your eligibility – this means you’ll experience none of the wait time associated with other cannabis access pathways, such as the SAS pathway. An issue that arises when considering this route is that it’s not always easy to know if there is an AP located near you.

At Polln, we’re breaking down this barrier. We work with APs who know how to support and guide patients through their choices. You can learn more about this process in our FAQs

Clinical Trials

This pathway might not be the right option for everyone, but there is an urgent need for participants in clinical trials. As the demand for medicinal cannabis grows, so does the number of clinical trials.

Medical Cannabis Cards

Unlike patients in the USA and some other countries, Australian patients do not need, nor will they receive, a ‘medical marijuana card’ to access medical cannabis. Instead, Australian patients simply need to obtain a prescription from a healthcare professional using one of the above pathways to access medicinal cannabis treatments. Your prescription will allow you to access the specific medications you have been prescribed, and will be an important document to have handy incase you need to verify your legal patient status to law enforcement while on the move.

I know my options now, but how long will this take? 

Wait times will vary between each access pathway, but the fastest route is through Authorised Prescribers as these practitioners don’t need to wait for the TGA to approve prescriptions. If you’re looking into the SAS pathway, note that it can take between 24–72 hours for your doctor to get a response from the TGA before your script can be provided to you or your treatments made available.

To book a consultation with a Polln Authorised Prescriber, sign up as a Polln patient today.

How do I know where to start? 

If you’ve read this article and are still feeling overwhelmed or confused – breathe. It might be daunting to begin this process, but there are guides you can follow and support you can access to help you along the way. To break this all down into simple steps:

Step 1
Read up on facts and reliable information so you can make informed decisions. Learn about what medicinal cannabis is and how it can help you.

Step 2
Check your eligibility. 

Step 3
Consider which option is best for you – GPs, Authorised Prescribers, or clinical trials.

Step 4
Prepare to reach out. Once you’ve done your research and chosen your access pathway, it’s time to reach out to a doctor, Authorised Prescriber or an organisation running clinical trials for medicinal cannabis. To chat with an expert prescriber, you can sign up as a Polln patient or reach out to our Care Team who can provide additional support and guidance.

Increasing access for patients in Australia

As the industry has expanded, we've seen and continue to see the following positive changes in the medical cannabis industry:

  • More doctors and patients are learning about the pathways to accessing medicinal cannabis 
  • The cost is still a barrier for potential patients, but the price is declining as more products become available
  • The waiting time between seeking prescriptions and receiving products is decreasing
  • Stigma around cannabis is slowly reducing
  • Clinical trials are increasing

At Polln, our biggest mission is to make natural alternatives like medicinal cannabis more accessible to the patients who need them. That's why all of our services are designed to be as accessible as possible, with no hidden costs or surprises down the track. Access video consultations, expert advice from Authorised Prescribers, treatment delivery services and ongoing care from wherever you are. All online and Australia-wide. Learn more or sign up as a patient today.

Holistic Health

Five things you may not know about plant medicine

Five things you may not know about plant medicine

Humans have turned to plants to feed, fuel and heal our bodies for as long as we have existed. In many communities, traditional and plant-based medicine remains the primary healthcare system, with over 60% of the world’s population depending directly on medicinal plants for their medical purposes.

Despite this, many in the West still view plant-based medicine as ‘alternative’ to or less effective than their synthetic counterparts. While modern medicine and pharmaceutical drugs have been vital in the treatment and prevention of countless diseases, it’s important to remember just how much our modern healthcare systems owes to plants. And to acknowledge the many benefits that safe, evidence-based use of plants can have in therapeutic and medicinal contexts.

Here, we take a look at five things you may not know about plant medicines and their uses today:

1: Plants, the original medicine

Early written records and even earlier physical evidence suggests that humans have known about and used plants for their medicinal properties for tens of thousands of years, with archaeological excavations indicating that the practice dates back at least as far as 60,000 years ago. Over time, established understandings of plants and their medicinal purposes have been developed amongst cultures and communities all over the world through trial and error, and the passing down of knowledge and experience. The first modern pharmaceutical medicines were derived from plants that humans had already been using to treat and prevent illness for centuries.

2: Modern medicine maintains its roots in plant medicine

Some of the most common drugs prescribed to patients today continue to be derived from plants, fungi, bacteria and other living species that were widely used by humans in traditional medicine for centuries prior. Of the 120 active compounds currently isolated from higher plants and used in modern medicine today, about 80% indicate a positive correlation between their modern therapeutic use and the traditional use of the plants from which they were derived.  

3: ‘Natural’ does not always mean safer

Many assume that because plants are more natural or wholesome than their synthetic counterparts, that they don’t come with the same level of risks and side effects. Just like any medicine that produces an effect on the body, plant medicines are capable of producing adverse effects like allergic reactions, rashes, asthma, headaches or even more severe effects. Plant medicines should always be taken in safe doses as directed by a healthcare professional, and any effects should be monitored closely.

4: Traditional medicine remains the primary healthcare system for most of the world’s population

Affordability, accessibility and enduring traditional beliefs and knowledge about plants and their uses has meant that traditional medicine, much of which relies on plants, has endured as the primary healthcare system for much of the world’s population. 60% of the world’s population and about 80% in developing countries depends on plants for medicinal purposes. This is in spite of conventional medicine’s history of challenging and suppressing herbal medicine as a viable and effective practise, but is also categorised by the lack of access to essential medicines faced by millions in developing countries.

5: The growing resurgence of plants as medicine in the West

Growing dissatisfaction with conventional, chemical drugs – including their side effects, over-prescription and associated risks of dependency – has led many to turn to plants as both a complementary or alternative treatment. While this increasing use comes with its own issues – including overexploitation of traditional plants and limited monitoring of the safety and quality of products on the market – their benefits when sourced and used responsibly are abundant. There is much established and ongoing research to support the use of plants in the treatment of numerous ailments, from minor to severe. Conventional medical practitioners are increasingly recommending plant medicines to their patients, and patients are increasingly seeking out holistic practitioners who will support them in their search for natural alternatives to conventional medicine. Doing proper research, engaging a reputable health professional and always using plant-based products as advised are just some of the ways you can ensure you get the greatest benefits from your plant-based treatments.

Holistic Health

Plants as a medicine: a brief history

Plants as a medicine: a brief history

Before there was medicine, there was plant medicine.

For as long as humans have existed, we have turned to plants to nourish, heal and fuel our bodies. For much of human history, possessing knowledge of plants and their healing properties – or having access to someone with this knowledge – could often mean the difference between life and death. Much like other animals, humankind’s initial interactions with medicinal plants were based solely on instinct and experience as people sought relief from their injuries and illnesses. In time, this allowed for more established understandings of plants – including their medicinal uses and benefits – to emerge. Much of this knowledge has been passed down through generations in the form of oral and written records, healing traditions and cultural practises – often in the face of great hardship. Forced migration, colonisation, invasions and Euro-centric ideas about what defined ‘medicine’ and who should practise it led to the erasure, suppression and exploitation of healing practitioners and herbal medicines across the world – some of which endures today.

While herbal medicine has largely been surpassed by pharmaceutical drugs (a significant number of which are derived from plants) in modern medicine, there is a vast amount of established and ongoing research that supports existing Indigenous, traditional and folk knowledge about the use of plants for therapeutic and medicinal purposes.

Earliest known records

While written records of plant medicines like poppy, thyme, caraway and cannabis can be traced back as far as the emergence of the earliest known form of writing by the Sumerians in 3000 BCE, archaeological excavations indicate that the practise of herbal medicine dates back at least as far as 60,000 years ago. Remains of opium poppies, ephedra, cannabis and other plants known to have medicinal properties found in Palaeolithic burial sites indicate early understandings of plant medicines among humans in this period, which were likely inherited from earlier generations and passed down to inform subsequent herbalism practises over time.

Medicinal cannabis

Few other plants can claim a history as enduring and closely tied to the human condition as the cannabis plant. Used as a herbal remedy, food and resource with greatly documented influence in medicine, ceremony and religion among civilisations throughout human history – cannabis is one of the oldest medicines on record.

Since its earliest known usage, the cannabis plant’s cultivation and use for medicinal purposes has been recorded in ancient and modern societies across Asia, Europe, the Middle East and beyond. Now scientifically-backed for its pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory abilities as well as its effectiveness in relieving the symptoms of various conditions like epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and depression – the cannabis plant is slowly shedding its stigma and making its way into the mainstream medicine conversation.

Today, medicinal cannabis refers to the range of legal, approved and quality assured preparations of the cannabis plant and its cannabinoids for therapeutic use.

Plant medicine today

It is estimated today that at least 80% of the world’s population is using or relying upon herbs for basic healthcare needs. This is in spite of conventional medicine’s history of challenging and suppressing herbal medicine as a viable and effective practise. A resurgence of the mainstream use of herbs as medicine seems to have occurred in recent years out of growing dissatisfaction with chemical drugs and their side effects, with scientific research increasingly supporting existing understandings of the healing benefits of plants. It is no longer uncommon for a conventional health practitioner to suggest herbal and plant-based medicines as part of a treatment plan, nor is it unusual to seek out holistic or natural alternatives to conventional treatments for minor ailments. While increasing use of plant-based medicines comes with its own issues – such as overexploitation of traditional plants and medicines – their benefits when sourced responsibly and prescribed by a licensed practitioner can be expansive. To learn more about natural alternatives visit our blog post.


Holistic Health

Getting to know natural alternatives

Getting to know natural alternatives

What are natural alternatives?

When it comes to supporting our body’s innate ability to heal itself, natural alternatives such as products, treatments and lifestyle changes can be used in place of conventional medicines and treatments for a more holistic healing process. When these therapies are used in conjunction with conventional medicine, they are typically referred to as complementary therapies.

Natural alternatives are regarded by many as cleaner, more balanced versions of their synthetic counterparts – meaning they can work in unison with our body’s natural healing process. Natural alternatives go hand-in-hand with holistic medicine, in that they support healing of the whole person and help to balance every aspect of a person’s health, rather than just treat individual symptoms.

What are some examples of natural alternatives?

Natural alternatives can include, but are not limited to:

  • Herbal and plant-based medicines
  • Vitamins and minerals
  • Diet and nutrition changes
  • Organic products
  • Traditional or holistic remedies
  • Naturopathy
  • Acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine
  • Ayurvedic medicine
  • Aromatherapy

Many of these therapies have been developed slowly over time to work alongside more conventional modern treatments and have been used by various cultures throughout human history.

When might I use a natural alternative?

Everyone is different, and has different preferences when it comes to what works for them and their health. Many people turn to natural alternatives out of dissatisfaction with more conventional or synthetic treatments they’ve tried, others are simply looking for a more natural way to support their health alongside their existing treatment plan. Here are some of the most common reasons you might want to try a natural alternative:

  • You want to feel more in control of your health and wellbeing
  • You’re dissatisfied with conventional treatments you’ve tried or you want to explore natural therapies to use alongside your existing treatments for added health benefits
  • You’ve read or heard evidence about the effectiveness of a natural alternative
  • You’re concerned about the potential adverse side-effects of conventional prescription medicines (Note: natural alternatives such as herbal medicines can also produce adverse side-effects and should always be prescribed by a qualified practitioner)
  • You’re concerned that your existing treatment plan is only addressing your symptoms, rather than looking at your health holistically
  • You’re looking for a more holistic or natural way to treat symptoms like fatigue, gastrointestinal diseases or other minor conditions  
  • You belong to a culture with traditions, practises and/or beliefs that incorporate natural medicines and therapies

As with any treatment or medication, conducting proper research and speaking with your doctor before commencing an alternative treatment is advised.

Getting started with natural alternatives

Exploring the world of natural alternatives can be an exciting and empowering part of your journey towards better health. But before you commence a natural alternative or treatment plan, it’s important to do your research. Ensure you’re only working with qualified, registered practitioners and seek a referral from your doctor if necessary. Your practitioner should take all of your medical history, health, allergies and any conditions into consideration before prescribing any products and you should always consult with your doctor before abandoning any of your existing conventional treatments. Most reputable and licensed natural healthcare practitioners will be constantly updating their knowledge of health and medical advancements to be able to provide you with the best care possible.

Learn more about how natural alternatives can support your holistic wellbeing by exploring our Medicinal Cannabis Library.

Holistic Health

Holistic health + you

Holistic health + you

Holistic health is the overarching philosophy of looking at a person’s health from every aspect – be it physical, emotional, social, spiritual or mental – and observing how imbalances in one or more of these areas can bring about unwanted symptoms in others.

While modern-day Western medicine has provided us with a long list of essential, life-saving medical advancements, it has also wired us to look at our health in terms of individual symptoms and treatments, rather than looking at the person – and all our parts – as a whole.

By considering how these interdependent parts of our personhood work together to either heal or bring about illness, holistic health provides an alternative or complementary approach to mainstream medicine that goes beyond treating symptoms as they arise. Instead, holistic health practises can support healing by tending to the vast array of factors that impact our wellbeing on a daily basis.  



What are the 5 key aspects of holistic health?

Holistic health looks beyond just the physical body when addressing health issues and symptoms – even those that manifest physically such as pain, fatigue or illness. While a symptom may cause pain or discomfort in a physical sense, its underlying causes (and therefore its treatments) can be more rooted in our emotional, mental, spiritual and social wellbeing than we realise. Similarly, how we take care of ourselves physically can have ripple effects on our health in other areas, such as our mental state or emotional wellbeing. Here, we look at the five key aspects of holistic health and how they can work together to impact our overall wellbeing:


Physical

When we think about health, most of us tend to think about the physical health of our bodies and how optimally they are functioning. Pain, illness, fatigue and tension are all examples of physical symptoms that are easy to detect and monitor, making them obvious indicators of health issues and imbalances. In mainstream medicine, these physical symptoms are typically treated with medications, physical therapies and/or surgeries – all of which can be incredibly beneficial to the patient depending on their needs and situation. What some mainstream practises fail to do however, is look at the underlying causes of physical symptoms which can manifest as a result of any combination of emotional, social, spiritual, mental and other physical imbalances. This means that while patients may find temporary or even long-lasting relief from their symptoms through mainstream medicines, many may be unaware of how much their environment, lifestyle choices, relationships and other aspects of their lives could be contributing to their physical health and wellbeing. Likewise, imbalances in our physical health such as our sleep, diet, exercise and lifestyle choices can negatively impact our health in other areas. This is why things like getting more sleep, eating more nutrient-rich foods and moving our bodies each day can help regulate our mood, emotions and mental wellbeing.


In tending to a physical or other unwanted symptom, a holistic practitioner will look at every aspect of a person’s health to determine the best treatment/s for them. Examples of treatments could range anywhere from massage and natural alternatives to stress-reduction techniques and therapy.

Emotional

Emotional health refers to a person’s ability to maintain perspective and control over their moods and emotions as they navigate daily life. An emotionally healthy person is not necessarily someone who is happy all the time or who does not experience setbacks, but rather someone who has the tools and self-awareness to be able to ‘cope’ in a wide range of situations and changing environments.  

Tending to our emotional health through emotional regulation practises like mindfulness and meditation, counselling and therapy or journaling and listening to music can be equally as important as tending to our physical health. Especially when we consider the impact that emotional distress is known to have on our bodies’ immune system and susceptibility to physical illness. Good emotional health is key to our ability to manage stress and build resilience, foster high self-esteem and self-awareness and form deeper social connections with others.

Beyond the emotional health practises listed above, we can also tend to our emotional wellbeing through physical health practises like exercising and getting more sleep; social health practises like spending time with loved ones and spiritual health practises like spending time in nature.

Social

Researchers have consistently shown links between our social relationships and health, with poor social health being linked to physical and mental health issues like high blood pressure, heart attacks, cancer, depression and anxiety. Loneliness has also been linked to chronic conditions like heart disease and inflammation due to its impact on our immune systems, with studies stating that a lonely person is 50% more likely to die prematurely than someone with good social health.

Healthy and meaningful social relationships are incredibly important to maintaining good health in all other areas – mental, physical, spiritual and emotional – and are key to our ability to manage stress and experience joy in our lives. It’s important to note that the quality of our social relationships is equally as important as the quantity, and that negative or ‘toxic’ social relationships can be as harmful to our health as a lack of social relationships.

Good social health practises can include things like engaging with your community, turning to family and friends for support, building meaningful relationships with others, creating healthy boundaries, communicating effectively and making time for in-person connection.


Spiritual

Spiritual health can mean different things to different people, making it harder to define than other aspects of holistic health. While spirituality is distinct from faith or religion, the two can overlap depending on your individual beliefs. Spirituality can be defined as our connection to the intangible or non-physical parts of life, such as the feeling we get when we do something we’re passionate about or the meaning we apply to certain places, groups and practises. While for many spirituality can imply a connection to faith, for others it is simply about connecting to themselves, their purpose or the world around them.


We can support our spiritual health through doing things we enjoy or that make us feel purposeful, spending time in nature, practising faith and engaging with our community. All of these practises will enhance not only our spiritual health, but all aspects of our health and wellbeing.

Mental

Mental health is distinct from emotional health in that it refers to our overall cognitive wellbeing and the way our brain functions, rather than just our day-to-day mood and emotions. There are many things that can impact a person’s mental health – ranging from biological factors and physical wellbeing to socioeconomic pressures and relationships – and good mental health plays a vital role in helping us foster wellness in all other areas of our lives.

Supporting your mental health holistically can take on many forms. A combination of self-directed activities like getting more sleep, managing stress and eating a nutrient-rich diet can complement treatments like psychotherapy, art therapy, natural alternatives and/or medication for more effective results when treating or preventing mental illnesses and their causes.


Treating the person, not just the symptoms

Holistic practitioners employ a variety of treatments, suggestions and techniques to support their patients’ health, with the goal of holistic medicine being to treat the person – not just their individual symptom/s – as a whole. Your holistic provider should empower you with the knowledge and incentive to make informed decisions about what works for you, your health and your goals by suggesting a range of tailored, evidence-backed therapies based on your needs. By looking at your health from every aspect, you and your holistic practitioner will be best-placed to detect, treat and prevent imbalances while monitoring the impact they have on other areas of your health. It is in this way that holistic health can promote profound, long-lasting healing and empower us to take greater care of our overall wellbeing.