Your Complete Guide to Medicinal Cannabis in Australia
Your Complete Guide to Medicinal Cannabis in Australia
Your Complete Guide to Medicinal Cannabis in Australia
Your Complete Guide to Medicinal Cannabis in Australia
Your Complete Guide to Medicinal Cannabis in Australia

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Medical Conditions

Natural Therapies: Medicinal Cannabis and Epilepsy

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Natural Therapies: Medicinal Cannabis and Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a complex neurological condition that affects millions of people worldwide. This disorder disrupts the normal electrical activity in the brain, causing recurrent seizures of differing intensities and frequencies. The impact of epilepsy goes beyond just physical symptoms and can affect cognitive abilities and emotional well-being too.

The seizures and their aftermath can be both physically debilitating and emotionally distressing, which is why it’s so important for doctors to tailor treatment plans to meet the physical and emotional needs of epilepsy patients.

While conventional antiepileptic medications have been a major advancement in epilepsy management, they are not always entirely effective and can be associated with undesirable side effects. This has prompted both patients and the medical community to explore alternative approaches, such as medicinal cannabis, which can be used as a complementary therapy or a stand-alone treatment.

Medicinal cannabis, commonly referred to as medical marijuana, has gained recognition for its potential to alleviate epilepsy symptoms for some patients naturally. The compounds found in medical cannabis, particularly cannabidiol (CBD), have shown promise in reducing the frequency and severity of seizures in certain individuals with epilepsy. These positive findings have encouraged further research into how cannabinoids interact with the nervous system to help reduce the intensity or frequency of seizures.

Read on to find out how medical cannabis may help some patients manage epilepsy.

What is epilepsy? 

Epilepsy is a spectrum of neurological disorders characterised by abnormal brain activity, resulting in recurrent seizures. These seizures can vary widely in their manifestations and severity, and can impact people differently. Because of epilepsy's diverse nature can diagnosis and treatment can be complicated 

Seizures associated with epilepsy can range from subtle moments of altered consciousness or brief staring spells to more intense convulsions. The type of seizure someone experiences depends on the part of the brain affected and the pattern of abnormal activity it generates.

There are different types of epilepsy, and each has its distinct set of challenges. Some people may experience focal onset seizures, which originate in a specific area of the brain, while others may have generalised onset seizures that involve widespread brain networks. Additionally, there are epilepsy syndromes that tend to manifest in specific age groups and are characterised by specific seizure types and patterns.

Managing epilepsy effectively requires accurate diagnosis and personalised treatment plans. Antiepileptic medications are commonly prescribed to control seizure activity, but their effectiveness can vary depending on the type of epilepsy and individual response. In some cases, surgery may be considered to remove or isolate the epileptic focus (the part of the brain where the seizure originates).

If you or a loved one are living with epilepsy and want to explore natural treatment support, medical professionals can help you make an informed decision about your treatment options.

Challenges of Traditional Epilepsy Treatments

Managing epilepsy involves a multifaceted approach that often relies on antiepileptic medications (also known as “anti-seizure medications”). These medications have greatly improved the lives of many people by helping them control seizures and achieve a better quality of life. However, while traditional epilepsy medications are effective for many, they are not without potential challenges.

One of the notable benefits of modern epilepsy medications is their ability to significantly reduce the frequency and severity of seizures for many people with epilepsy. These medical advancements have revolutionised epilepsy management, allowing people to regain a sense of control and stability in their lives.

However, there has been growing interest in the potential therapeutic benefits of medicinal cannabis as an adjunct therapy for epilepsy. While not always a suitable replacement for modern epilepsy medications, some individuals find that incorporating medicinal cannabis into their treatment plan may provide additional relief or help them avoid common side effects like dizziness, fatigue, weight gain, and mood changes.

Cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive compound found in medical cannabis, has shown promise in reducing certain types of seizures, particularly in cases where traditional medications may not be fully effective. However, it's important to note that medicinal cannabis is not suitable for everyone, and its use should be discussed with healthcare providers, like an authorised prescriber or doctor. Remember: When making decisions about epilepsy treatment options (whether that involves traditional medications, adjunct therapies like medicinal cannabis, or a combination of both) it’s important to make these decisions with the help of a trusted doctor.

How Medical Cannabis May Impact Patients with Epilepsy

The potential therapeutic role of medical cannabis in managing epilepsy has garnered increasing interest, shedding light on its possible therapeutic benefits for some individuals living with seizure disorders. Exploring the interaction between medical cannabis and the neurological system can provide insights into its potential efficacy in mitigating the challenges posed by epilepsy.

  • Neurological Regulation: Medical cannabis compounds, including CBD and THC, interact with the body's endocannabinoid system (ECS), a complex network of receptors and signalling molecules involved in maintaining neurological balance.

CBD, for instance, has shown promise in influencing GABA receptors, which play a critical role in inhibiting excessive neuronal activity. By modulating these receptors, CBD may help regulate abnormal brain activity associated with seizures in some patients.

  • Seizure Threshold Modulation: Both CBD and THC have been studied for their effects on altering the seizure threshold, which is the point at which an individual is more susceptible to experiencing a seizure.

CBD's anticonvulsant properties show potential in raising the seizure threshold, thereby reducing the frequency and intensity of seizures. However, the influence of THC on seizures requires careful consideration due to its potential to lower the seizure threshold in some cases.

  • Neuroprotective Effects: CBD's neuroprotective properties have gained attention for their potential in safeguarding brain cells from damage caused by seizures. Research suggests that CBD's antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions may help mitigate the neurodegenerative effects associated with epilepsy, providing a multifaceted approach to managing the condition for some patients.

  • Dosage and Personalized Treatment: It's important to note that the effects of medical cannabis on epilepsy can vary widely based on factors such as dosage, cannabinoid ratios, and an individual's specific response. Working closely with medical professionals to establish appropriate dosing and monitoring is crucial to achieving optimal outcomes.

  • Improved Quality of Life: Patients who experience fewer seizures often report an improved quality of life. Reduced seizure frequency can lead to better cognitive function, improved mood, and enhanced social interactions.

  • Reduced Medication Dependency: Some individuals with epilepsy may be able to reduce their reliance on traditional antiepileptic medications when using medicinal cannabis, which can be beneficial, especially if they experience adverse side effects from these medications.

While further research is needed to fully understand its mechanisms and effects, medical cannabis offers hope for some people wanting additional options for epilepsy care to address the challenges posed by this complex neurological condition.

Possible Risks of Medicinal Cannabis for Epilepsy

Before starting on a course of medicinal cannabis treatment for epilepsy, it is important to carefully evaluate any potential risks to make informed decisions about your medical treatment.

  • Side Effects: While CBD is generally considered safe and well-tolerated, THC and other prominent compounds in cannabis can cause side effects such as dizziness, increased heart rate, and cognitive impairment. These side effects may be particularly concerning for vulnerable populations, such as children or the elderly.

  • Drug Interactions: Medicinal cannabis can interact with other medications, potentially affecting their effectiveness or causing adverse reactions. It is crucial for patients to inform their healthcare providers about their cannabis use to manage potential drug interactions properly.

  • Long-Term Safety: The long-term safety of medicinal cannabis for epilepsy requires further clinical trials. Concerns about potential adverse effects on brain development in children and adolescents and the risk of addiction need to be carefully considered.

  • Individual Variation: Responses to medicinal cannabis can vary significantly among individuals. What works for one person may not work for another, making it challenging to predict outcomes and customise treatment effectively.

Ongoing research and increased understanding of medicinal cannabis treatments  are critical for maximising the therapeutic benefits and minimising the risks associated with its use in epilepsy management.

The Wrap Up

Epilepsy is a complex disorder that disrupts the normal electrical activity in the brain and causes recurrent seizures. While traditional medications have played an important role in managing this condition, medicinal cannabis, particularly CBD-rich formulations, shows promise as an alternative or complementary therapy, especially for some medication-resistant epilepsy.

Medical Cannabis and Epilepsy FAQs

Is cannabinoid oil for epilepsy?

Yes, cannabinoid oil, also known as CBD oil, has been studied and used as a potential treatment for epilepsy, particularly in cases where other treatments have not been effective. The TGA has approved a CBD-based medication called Epidiolex for specific forms of severe epilepsy. This medication was also the first and only medicinal cannabis medication to be listed on Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). However, it's important to consult with a healthcare professional before using CBD oil for epilepsy, as its effectiveness can vary from person to person, and other treatment options should also be considered.

How can I prevent seizures? 

To prevent seizures, especially while considering the use of medicinal cannabis, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional, such as a neurologist, epilepsy specialist, or an expert doctor, for personalised guidance. For many people, prescription medications are the primary means of seizure control, and adherence to the prescribed regimen is important. Lifestyle adjustments, like maintaining a regular sleep schedule, managing stress, and avoiding personal seizure triggers, can also be helpful. If appropriate, medicinal cannabis containing CBD or low levels of THC may be considered as part of the treatment plan, but it should be closely monitored by a qualified healthcare provider. Additionally, other options like Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS), Responsive Neurostimulation (RNS), or surgery may be explored in cases where seizures are not responsive to medications or other treatments.

Medical Conditions

Natural Therapies: Medicinal Cannabis and Neurological Conditions

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Natural Therapies: Medicinal Cannabis and Neurological Conditions

Neurological conditions can pose significant challenges to individuals and their loved ones, affecting not only physical health but also mental and emotional well-being. These conditions often require long-term management and personalised treatments.

Neurological conditions include a wide range of disorders, including multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, and neuropathic pain. These conditions can have a wide range of symptoms, from seizures and muscle spasms to cognitive impairment or chronic pain.

Traditional drugs for neurological conditions can be an important part of neurological condition management, but they can come with limitations, such as unwanted side effects, varying efficacy, and the potential for dependence. This has led many patients and healthcare professionals to explore alternative treatments for adjunct therapies like medical cannabis.

Medical cannabis, sometimes referred to as medical marijuana or medicinal weed, is gaining recognition for its potential to relieve symptoms associated with various neurological disorders in some patients. Cannabinoids, the active compounds in cannabis, may help modulate pain perception in the brain, reduce inflammation, and potentially improve overall neurological function.

Read on to find out how medical cannabis may help some patients with symptoms associated with neurological conditions and how to safely explore options for medicinal cannabis treatments. 

What are neurological conditions?

Neurological conditions, also referred to as neurological disorders or diseases, encompass a broad spectrum of medical conditions that affect the nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves. 

These conditions disrupt the normal functioning of the nervous system, leading to a wide range of symptoms and health challenges. Neurological conditions can be caused by factors, such as genetic factors, infections, injuries, autoimmune responses, and degenerative processes (ageing-related changes).

Diagnosis, treatment, and management of neurological disorders typically involve a multidisciplinary approach, with neurologists and other healthcare professionals working together to provide comprehensive care.

Neurologists specialise in the diagnosis and treatment of neurological conditions, employing a combination of clinical assessments, imaging studies, and laboratory tests to arrive at an accurate diagnosis. Once diagnosed, patients often receive tailored treatment plans that may include medications to manage symptoms, physical therapy to improve function, surgical interventions to address specific issues, and, in some cases, lifestyle modifications.

Lifestyle modifications can be particularly important in the management of certain neurological conditions. These modifications may involve dietary changes, exercise regimens, and adaptations to daily routines to optimise the patient's quality of life and overall well-being. The goal is to empower individuals affected by neurological conditions to lead as fulfilling and comfortable lives as possible, despite the challenges posed by their condition.

Types of Neurological Conditions

While neurological conditions share a common thread of affecting the nervous system (brain, spinal cord, and nerves), neurological conditions cover many different kinds of disorders. Each neurological condition, like Parkinson’s or Epilepsy, has its own specific causes and symptoms, which makes the field of neurology quite complex.

Some common neurological conditions include:

  • Epilepsy
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Chronic Pain
  • Migraines
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
  • Parkinson's Disease
  • Neuropathy (damage or dysfunction of the peripheral nerves)

Each neurological condition presents its unique challenges in terms of diagnosis and management. Treatment approaches vary, and they often involve a combination of medications, therapies, and lifestyle modifications tailored to the specific condition and individual needs.

Medicinal Cannabis and Neurological Conditions

Medicinal cannabis is gaining recognition as a potential treatment option to help manage the symptoms of various neurological conditions due to its ability to potentially alleviate symptoms such as pain, muscle spasticity, and seizures in some patients.

Medicinal cannabis may help some patients manage the symptoms of the following neurological conditions:

The first ever medicinal cannabis product on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS)  was listed in 2021. Epidyolex® a prescription cannabidiol (CBD) oil that is used to treat seizures associated with Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome in patients 2 years of age and older.

  • Parkinson's Disease: Parkinson's disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that leads to motor impairments, including tremors and rigidity. Medicinal cannabis may help reduce these symptoms and improve the overall quality of life for some individuals with Parkinson's.
  • Neuropathic Pain: Neuropathic pain conditions, such as diabetic neuropathy and trigeminal neuralgia, involve chronic pain resulting from nerve dysfunction. Medical cannabis treatments, with their analgesic properties, have been shown to help some people manage neuropathic pain.
  • Migraines: Migraines are characterised by severe headaches and associated symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, and in some cases, visual disturbances or auras. Research shows that medicinal cannabis may help  reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines in some patients. Additionally, medicinal cannabis may help some patients manage associated symptoms of migraine, such as nausea and vomiting.

Remember: the effectiveness of medicinal cannabis in managing neurological conditions can vary from person to person. Additionally, the use of medicinal cannabis should be approached cautiously, and consultation with an experienced healthcare professional.

How Medicinal Cannabis May Affect  Neurological Conditions

Medicinal cannabis, and medicinal cannabis products, containing cannabinoids like THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol), may help some people manage some of the complex symptoms of neurological disorders.

While ongoing research is still uncovering exactly how medicinal cannabis interacts with neurological conditions, here are a few ways it might affect some patients: :

  • Managing Neuroinflammation: THC and CBD, the main compounds in medical cannabis, have anti-inflammatory effects. They interact with the body's endocannabinoid system, which regulates immune responses and inflammation.

It has been suggested that Medicinal cannabis may help slow down the progression of conditions like multiple sclerosis in some patients by reducing neuroinflammation, as inflammation is a key factor in nerve damage.

  • Immune System Modulation: Medicinal cannabis compounds may affect how the immune system responds in some patients, especially in neuroinflammatory autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson's. 

Medicinal cannabis may control the release of cytokines and other immune signalling molecules, which helps in calming down an overactive immune response. This is significant for conditions like Guillain-Barré syndrome and lupus, where an overly active immune system is a characteristic feature.

  • Pain Alleviation: Neurological conditions often bring persistent pain that can seriously affect a person's life. Medical cannabis may help manage pain symptoms in some patients due to its pain-relieving properties. This can be especially helpful for people with conditions like diabetic neuropathy, which causes nerve pain due to diabetes, or trigeminal neuralgia, a condition causing severe facial pain.
  • Seizure Control: Medicinal cannabis, particularly the cannabinoid CBD, may aid in the management of seizure disorders such as epilepsy. Although we don't fully understand exactly how it helps, it seems that CBD's capacity to regulate nerve cell activity and the release of signalling chemicals in the brain plays a crucial role in decreasing the frequency and intensity of seizures.

Remember: The efficacy of medicinal cannabis can vary from person to person and can depend on many factors, including your condition, the specific medical cannabis treatment  used, and the dosing regimen.

As with any medical treatment, medicinal cannabis carries potential side effects and interactions with other medications. If you’re interested in learning more about medicinal cannabis treatments,to weigh the risks and benefits. 

Possible Risks of Medical Cannabis for Neurological Conditions

While not everyone will experience adverse effects, it's important to be aware of potential risks associated with medical cannabis for inflammatory conditions:

  • Cognitive Effects: Depending on the compounds present and their concentrations, medical cannabis might lead to cognitive effects, including impaired memory and concentration.
  • Interactions and Side Effects: Just like any medication, medical cannabis could interact with other medications you're taking. Side effects, though potentially fewer than with traditional medications, still warrant careful consideration.
  • Psychoactive Effects of THC: The psychoactive nature of THC may not be appropriate for people with certain mood disorders, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. 

A comprehensive discussion with a caring medical professional can help you navigate possible risks and make an informed decision about whether medical cannabis could be right for you. 

The Wrap Up

Living with a neurological condition can be a significant and long-lasting challenge. It requires a constant effort to manage symptoms, adapt to their limitations, and seek comfort and function despite ongoing neurological issues. Medical cannabis may provide hope for those dealing with conditions like epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, and neuropathic pain when other treatments have failed to provide relief.

Medicinal cannabis, under the guidance of experienced healthcare professionals, can offer people new possibilities for people with neurological conditions to improve their quality of life and manage symptoms.

Remember: to qualify for access to medicinal cannabis in Australia, you must have experienced a chronic condition for over three months and have tried other treatments that were either ineffective or resulted in unwanted side effect

Neurological Conditions: FAQ

Can multiple sclerosis be cured?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic autoimmune neurological condition with no known cure at present. While there is no cure for MS, various treatments aim to manage its symptoms, slow disease progression, and improve patients' quality of life. Medicinal cannabis, particularly formulations containing both THC and CBD, has shown promise in alleviating some MS symptoms, such as pain, muscle spasms, and spasticity in some patients.

However, it should be viewed as a complementary therapy rather than a cure. Research on the long-term effects and optimal use of medicinal cannabis for MS is ongoing, and its effectiveness can vary from person to person. Individuals with MS should work closely with healthcare professionals to develop comprehensive treatment plans tailored to their specific needs and conditions.

Do Parkinson's symptoms come and go? 

Parkinson's disease is characterised by both motor and non-motor symptoms, and their presentation can indeed fluctuate, with periods of symptom exacerbation (known as "on" periods) followed by relative relief (known as "off" periods). These fluctuations are often a result of the interplay between the disease progression and the effectiveness of Parkinson's medications, particularly levodopa.

Some people may experience the "wearing-off" phenomenon, where the medication's effects diminish before the next dose, leading to a return of symptoms. Medicinal cannabis, particularly formulations containing both THC and CBD, has been explored as a potential adjunct therapy to help manage Parkinson's symptoms during "off" periods, offering relief from issues like tremors, rigidity, and bradykinesia in some patients. 

Medical Conditions

Natural Therapies: Medicinal Cannabis and Sleep Disorders

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Natural Therapies: Medicinal Cannabis and Sleep Disorders

Living with a sleep disorder, such as insomnia or restless legs syndrome, can be an exhausting and frustrating experience. These conditions disrupt our natural sleep rhythms, meaning we not only don’t get enough sleep — but the sleep we do get tends to be poor quality too. The effects of bad sleep go beyond just feeling tired. Sleep disorders can cause difficulties concentrating, mood swings, lowered immune function, and a higher risk of illnesses.

Insomnia treatment can be challenging too due to the many reasons why sleep problems happen. Stress, poor sleep hygiene habits, and medical and psychological conditions can all cause sleep issues. The duration and severity of your sleep disorders also play a role in how to manage them, with chronic cases often requiring more comprehensive or holistic treatment options.

Medicinal cannabis has shown promise as a potential natural and lower-risk option for some people with insomnia. The natural compounds found in cannabis plants, cannabinoids THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) plus terpenes, interact with the body's endocannabinoid system to help regulate sleep and other bodily functions.

Learn more about how medical cannabis may help with sleep disorders in some patients and discover options for accessing medicinal cannabis in Australia.

Understanding Sleep Disorders

Insomnia and other sleep disorders are conditions that disrupt normal sleep patterns, making it hard to fall asleep, stay asleep, or achieve good quality sleep. Many factors, including stress, medical conditions, lifestyle habits, or even genetic factors can cause sleep disorders.

Some common sleep disorders include insomnia, restless legs syndrome, and narcolepsy.

People with insomnia face ongoing challenges in falling asleep or maintaining sleep, and are often accompanied by stress or anxiety.

Restless legs syndrome also causes disrupted sleep, however sleep difficulties are caused by uncomfortable leg sensations and uncontrollable urges to move the legs.

Instead of trouble sleeping at night, narcolepsy causes sudden, uncontrollable episodes of daytime sleepiness. Narcolepsy can also cause sudden muscle weakness or paralysis triggered by emotions, like laughter or surprise. Additionally, narcoleptics can experience vivid hallucinations  (also known as hypnopompic hallucinations) upon falling.

Effective management and treatment of sleep disorders requires accurate diagnosis and personalised treatment plans. Want to know more about sleep disorders? Talk to a doctor to receive a comprehensive assessment and achieve better sleep.

Why is Poor Sleep Such a Problem?

With how busy our daily lives can be, it’s easy to underestimate how important sleep is for our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. 

During sleep, our bodies undergo essential processes that help repair tissue, strengthen our immune system, and regulate hormones. Additionally, sleep is vital for memory consolidation, learning, and problem-solving, allowing us to process and make sense of the information we encounter throughout the day.

Getting enough sleep also stabilises mood and emotional resilience. Ongoing sleep deprivation (like what you would experience with chronic insomnia) has been associated with heightened stress levels and an increased susceptibility to mental health disorders.

Poor sleep can even affect our physical health and increase our risk of chronic conditions like obesity and diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Polln Doctor, Dr Melissa Catanzarite, MBBS believes that sleep is the single most significant component of our self care. “Sleep is the real miracle drug; it promotes healing, emotional stability and even weight loss. Without sleep we struggle to have meaningful interactions with those we love, our creativity is dampened or ceases altogether and we are at more risk for significant health disorders.

A person can take all of the medications, supplements and yoga classes in the world and their health will not improve until they prioritise sleep.”

Challenges of Traditional Sleep Disorder Treatments

Conventional treatments for sleep disorders that rely on pharmaceutical interventions (sometimes called “sleeping pills”) or behavioural therapies can be challenging for patients due to their possible side effects, dependency concerns, and varying levels of effectiveness.

While behavioural therapies, like cognitive behavioural therapy, can be effective drug-free insomnia treatment options, they require commitment and patience as they often involve making long-term changes to sleep habits and routines.

Prescription sleep aids, like benzodiazepines and non-benzodiazepine hypnotics, on the other hand, help insomnia by boosting the calming effects of various brain chemicals. However, these medications are typically recommended for short-term use. 

Prolonged or excessive use of prescription sleep aids can lead to tolerance, where the effectiveness of the drug diminishes over time, or drug dependence. Additionally, when individuals stop using these medications after extended use, they may experience rebound insomnia, where their sleep problems worsen again.

Benzodiazepines and non-benzodiazepine hypnotics can also lead to issues such as daytime drowsiness, cognitive impairment, and an increased likelihood of accidents or falls, particularly among older adults.

There is a significant need for natural sleep aids. Some alternatives include medical cannabis, relaxation exercises, and improved sleeping habits, such as taking daily exercises, reducing caffeine and alcohol intake, and making changes to your sleeping environment to promote better sleep hygiene.

Medicinal Cannabis and Insomnia, Restless Leg Syndrome, and Narcolepsy

Research has demonstrated the efficacy of medical cannabis in treating certain sleep disorders, including insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and narcolepsy in some patients. Studies have shown that the natural compounds found in cannabis, such as CBD and THC, can influence our sleep patterns to potentially provide us with a better night’s sleep.

CBD, or CBD oil, for instance, may act as a natural sleep medicine due to it’s calming properties and may help people with anxiety-related insomnia or restless leg syndrome.

Medicinal cannabis has been shown to help manage the following sleep disorders:

  • Insomnia: Insomnia is a common sleep disorder characterised by difficulties falling asleep, staying asleep, or experiencing restful sleep.While treating insomnia can be complicated in some cases, research suggests that medical cannabis can help people with insomnia fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly. 

In one study, 71% of patients using cannabis products for sleep reported improved sleep, with 39% reducing and/or discontinuing their prescription sleep medication.

  • Restless legs syndrome (RLS): Medical cannabis may help to reduce the symptoms of RLS, such as the urge to move the legs and relieve associated discomfort or pain.

A small 2017 study showed that medical cannabis was able to reduce symptoms of RLS. All participants noted an improvement in their sleep after treatment was completed. What’s more, the patients described medicinal cannabis products as the most effective sleep aid and the best-tolerated treatment.

  • Narcolepsy: Narcolepsy is characterised by sudden episodes of daytime sleepiness and can lead to sudden loss of muscle control (cataplexy), hallucinations, and sleep paralysis.

Medical cannabis may help to reduce the symptoms of narcolepsy, such as excessive daytime sleepiness and cataplexy. However, more research is needed to confirm these findings.

How Medical Cannabis May Support as a Natural Sleep Aid

Medical cannabis may help treat sleep disorders due to its interaction with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS plays an important role in regulating various bodily functions, including sleep.

The ECS has been found to influence sleep-wake cycles, sleep duration, and sleep quality through its modulation of neurotransmitters and receptors in the brain. Cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD, may influence the quality and duration of sleep in some patients by:

  • Reducing Anxiety: CBD as a sleep aid may provide insomnia relief for some patients. CBD has anti-anxiety (anxiolytic) properties that may help alleviate anxiety and stress, common contributors to sleep disorders like insomnia.
  • Promoting Relaxation: Both THC and CBD have muscle relaxant and sedative properties, potentially aiding in relaxation and promoting sleep onset.
  • Regulating REM Sleep: THC has been shown to suppress REM sleep, which could be beneficial for those with conditions like nightmares or REM sleep behaviour disorder. Interestingly, reduced REM sleep has been linked to early onset dementia and cognitive decline; however, CBD and THC together may allow for more REM, potentially protecting brain health for some people.

  • Pain Relief: Medical cannabis may alleviate pain in some patients, which is often a contributing factor to sleep disorders. By reducing pain, it may facilitate better sleep.

Therapeutic Effects of Medical Cannabis for Sleep

When considering medical cannabis for sleep, it's essential to consult a doctor before starting a treatment course. Your practitioner can help you assess the potential risks and benefits, and decide if medical cannabis aligns with your sleep disorder and overall health needs.

Medical cannabis offers several therapeutic effects that may set it apart from other sleep medications:

  • Natural: Unlike many traditional sleep medications, medical cannabis is derived from the cannabis plant, making it a natural alternative that may appeal to those seeking a plant-based remedy without the side effects associated with some synthetic drugs.
  • Less Side Effects: Compared to some pharmaceutical interventions, medical cannabis may have fewer side effects for some patients, particularly when used responsibly and under medical supervision. This can be appealing for those concerned about adverse reactions and dependency associated with traditional sleep medications.

Risks of Medical Cannabis for Sleep

When deciding on any kind of  medication, it's important to acknowledge any possible risks alongside potential benefits.

Some risks of medicinal cannabis for sleep include potential side effects such as dizziness, dry mouth, and cognitive impairment, as well as the risk of developing tolerance, and dependence. Additionally, the psychoactive nature of THC, may not be suitable for people with mood disorders, like bipolar or schizophrenia.

A comprehensive discussion with a caring medical professional can help you navigate these risks and benefits to help you make an informed decision about whether medical cannabis is a safe and effective option for you.

The Wrap Up

Sleep disorders can have a profound impact on both our physical and mental well-being, disrupting our natural sleep patterns and significantly influencing our overall health and quality of life. Traditional treatments, though effective for some, can come with some challenging side effects like dependence or rebound insomnia, and might not but suitable for everything.

Medical cannabis provides a safer, natural, sleep aid option. By interacting with the endocannabinoid system, it can help improve sleep, reduce anxiety, promote relaxation, and even regulate REM sleep. Even though medicinal cannabis has fewer side effects than other sleep medications, it’s still important to consult with a healthcare professional to weigh the risks and benefits and decide if natural therapies are right for you.

Medicinal Cannabis and Sleep FAQ

What is the most effective natural sleep aid?

One natural sleep aid is medicinal cannabis. While the effectiveness and safety of medicinal cannabis as a sleep aid can vary from person to person, there is a growing body of research suggesting medical cannabis may improve sleep quality, reduce the time it takes to fall asleep, and increase the duration of deep and restorative sleep.

Medicinal cannabis contains compounds called cannabinoids, such as CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which interact with the body's endocannabinoid system. This system plays a role in regulating various physiological processes, including sleep. CBD, in particular, has been studied for its potential to promote relaxation and alleviate anxiety in some patients, both of which can contribute to better sleep.

Several studies have indicated that CBD may help some individuals with insomnia or other sleep disorders. It's believed to have a calming effect on the mind, helping to ease racing thoughts and create a more conducive environment for falling asleep. Additionally, some individuals have reported experiencing longer periods of deep sleep and improved sleep continuity when using CBD as a sleep aid.

It's worth noting that other natural sleep aids, such as meditation, hypnotherapy, and melatonin, are also recognised for their potential in promoting restful sleep. Different individuals may find varying degrees of effectiveness with these options, and it's advisable to explore what works best for your individual needs and preferences.

Can you become dependent on sleep aids?

Yes, it is possible to become dependent on sleep aids, including medicinal cannabis. Both over-the-counter and prescription sleep aids, as well as natural remedies like medicinal cannabis, can lead to physical and psychological dependence if used improperly or for an extended period.

  • Prescription Sleep Aids: Prescription medications like benzodiazepines and certain non-benzodiazepine drugs can effectively treat sleep disorders, but they carry the risk of dependence. Tolerance can develop over time, requiring higher doses to achieve the same effect. This can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking the medication.

  • Over-the-Counter and Natural Sleep Aids: Even over-the-counter sleep aids, including herbal supplements, and natural options like medicinal cannabis can also lead to dependence. Using these aids regularly can create a psychological reliance on them to induce sleep.

  • Medicinal Cannabis: While medicinal cannabis  has shown potential for improving sleep, prolonged and indiscriminate use can also lead to dependence. Regular use might lead to the body adapting to its effects, potentially requiring higher doses to achieve the desired sleep benefits. Learn more
Medical Conditions

Natural Therapies: Medicinal Cannabis and Chemotherapy Side Effects

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Natural Therapies: Medicinal Cannabis and Chemotherapy Side Effects

Dealing with cancer is an incredibly challenging journey, not only for patients but for their loved ones too. Chemotherapy, while effective in targeting cancer cells, often brings along a slew of daunting side effects that can make treatment even more difficult. Nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and rashes, or diarrhoea are just a few of the additional issues that chemotherapy patients face.

Chemotherapy-induced side effects are notoriously challenging to manage. Standard medications used to reduce them don’t always provide effective relief, and can even create additional complications. In recent years, studies have shown that medicinal cannabis (historically known as medical weed or medical marijuana, learn more about the importance of language here), has emerged as a promising alternative that holds potential in mitigating some of the adverse effects of chemotherapy.

This natural approach to symptom management has been gaining recognition within both the patient community and the medical field. Under the supervision of a medical professional, the therapeutic cannabinoids in medicinal cannabis may offer relief from nausea, vomiting, pain, and other debilitating symptoms associated with chemotherapy for some patients.

If you or a loved one are undergoing chemotherapy and have not found effective relief through conventional therapies, doctors who are experienced in the prescription of medicinal cannabis are here to guide you through this therapeutic option, ensuring that you receive the care and support you need throughout your journey towards better health and quality of life.

What are chemotherapy side effects?

Chemotherapy and immunotherapy are effective in targeting cancerous cells in many types of cancer, including breast cancer, lung cancer, colorectal cancer, leukaemia, and many others. However, chemotherapy can also cause a range of short term and long term side effects due to its impact on healthy cells and tissues in the body.

These side effects can vary in severity from person to person and depend on the specific chemotherapy drugs used. Some common chemotherapy side effects include:

  • Nausea and Vomiting: Chemotherapy is often designed to be toxic to cancer cells, this can trigger nausea  nausea and vomiting. These symptoms can be acute (occurring shortly after treatment) or delayed (occurring days after treatment). Anti-nausea medications are often prescribed to manage these symptoms.

  • Fatigue: Chemotherapy-induced fatigue is a common side effect that can have a debilitating effect on a patient’s quality of life. It’s more than just “feeling tired”, Chemotherapy-induced fatigue  can feel mentally and physically exhausted. This fatigue can persist for weeks or even months after treatment.

  • Hair Loss: Many chemotherapy drugs can cause hair loss, including hair on the scalp, eyebrows, and eyelashes. Hair usually grows back after treatment ends.

  • Loss of Appetite and Weight Changes: Chemotherapy can affect the sense of taste and appetite, leading to weight loss or gain.

  • Mouth Sores: Chemotherapy can cause mouth sores and mucositis, making it painful to eat or drink.

  • Digestive Issues: Patients may experience diarrhoea, constipation, or other gastrointestinal problems during chemotherapy.

  • Skin Changes: Skin may become dry, itchy, or sensitive to sunlight. Some chemotherapy drugs can cause rashes or skin discolouration.

  • Cognitive Changes: Some people undergoing chemotherapy report cognitive changes often referred to as "chemo brain." This can involve memory problems, difficulty concentrating, and mental fogginess./

  • Peripheral Neuropathy: Some chemotherapy drugs can damage peripheral nerves, causing symptoms like tingling, numbness, or pain in the hands and feet.

  • Emotional and Psychological Effects: Coping with cancer and its treatment can lead to emotional distress, stress and anxiety, depression, and changes in mood.

How Can Medical cannabis Potentially Help Manage Chemotherapy Side Effects?

Medical cannabis has shown promise in alleviating several chemotherapy-induced side effects. The potential benefits of medical cannabis in managing these side effects are mostly attributed to its active compounds called cannabinoids, primarily delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), which interact with the body's endocannabinoid system. 

Here's how medical cannabis may help some patients with chemotherapy side effects:

  • Pain Management: Medical cannabis has analgesic (pain-relieving) properties and may be effective in managing chemotherapy-related pain for some patients, including nerve pain (neuropathy) and bone pain.

  • Anxiety and Stress: Chemotherapy can cause anxiety and emotional distress. CBD, a non-psychoactive component of medicinal cannabis, has anxiolytic properties and may help reduce anxiety and improve mood for some patients.

  • Sleep Improvement: Medical cannabis may aid in improving sleep quality for some patients experiencing insomnia or sleep disturbances due to chemotherapy.

  • Anti-Inflammatory Effects: Medical cannabis has anti-inflammatory properties that may potentially reduce inflammation for some patients and alleviate symptoms related to chemotherapy-induced mucositis and skin issues.

  • Neuropathy Relief: Some patients develop peripheral neuropathy as a side effect of chemotherapy. Medicinal cannabis may help manage neuropathic pain and discomfort.

  • Anti-Spasticity: In cases where chemotherapy-related muscle spasms or spasticity occur, medical cannabis may provide relief. By relaxing muscle contractions and reducing the intensity and frequency of spasms, medical cannabis may improve comfort and mobility for some individuals undergoing cancer treatment.

  • Combination Therapy: Medical cannabis may be used in conjunction with other medications to manage side effects. This can lead to a more well-rounded and personalised treatment approach.

Remember: the use of medical cannabis in cancer care is a topic of ongoing research, and its effectiveness and potential risks and side effects can vary from person to person. Medicinal cannabis is not a primary treatment for cancer and cannot cure cancer.

Additionally, the choice of cannabis products, dosages, and administration methods should be carefully considered and discussed with a healthcare provider experienced in medical cannabis use to ensure safety and optimal results.

Possible Risks of Medical Cannabis for Chemotherapy Side- Effects

While medical cannabis shows promise in managing some chemotherapy side effects, it is important to understand potential risks and side effects associated with its use.

The impact of medical cannabis can vary depending on individual factors, the specific cannabis products employed, and the method of consumption. Here are some possible risks to consider when using medical cannabis for chemotherapy side effects:

  • Psychological Effects: Medicinal cannabis products with high levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the intoxicating compound in cannabis, can induce psychological side effects. These may include anxiety, paranoia, hallucinations, and impaired cognitive function. Individuals with a history of mental health conditions, such as anxiety or schizophrenia, may be at greater risk of experiencing these side effects.

  • Dependency and Withdrawal: Long-term, consistent use of medical cannabis, particularly those with high THC content, can lead to dependence. Attempting to reduce or cease medical cannabis use may result in withdrawal symptoms, including irritability, mood swings, insomnia, and loss of appetite.

  • Impaired Cognitive Function: Medical cannabis can impair cognitive functions such as memory, attention, and decision-making. This may raise concerns, particularly for individuals needing mental sharpness for tasks like driving or operating heavy machinery.

  • Interaction with Medications: Medical cannabis has the potential to interact with certain medications, either by enhancing or diminishing their efficacy. Individuals using medications should consult healthcare professionals to assess potential interactions before incorporating medical cannabis into their regimen.

  • Potential Adverse Effects on Chemotherapy Side Effects: While medical cannabis may offer relief to some chemotherapy patients, it may not be suitable for everyone. In some cases, it might exacerbate side effects such as nausea, vomiting, or underlying digestive issues.

When considering medical cannabis as a complementary therapy for chemotherapy side effects, remember to talk to a about the risks and benefits before starting a course of treatment.

A specialty practitioner can provide guidance on whether medical cannabis is an appropriate option, assist in selecting the right dosage and strain, and closely monitor for potential side effects or interactions with existing medications.

The Wrap Up

Cancer treatment, especially chemotherapy, can be incredibly challenging and is often accompanied by many distressing side effects that can affect patients and their loved ones. Nausea, vomiting, pain, and the many other issues that come with chemotherapy can be overwhelming. Conventional treatments may not always provide sufficient relief and can even introduce new complications.

While there is still much more research to be done, medicinal cannabis may provide some people with a natural alternative for chemotherapy side-effect management. By harnessing cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, medicinal cannabis may offer relief from a wide range of symptoms, helping make cancer treatment more bearable for some patients.

If you or a loved one is navigating chemotherapy, expert doctors are available to help you, discussing the potential benefits of this therapeutic option.

Chemotherapy Side Effects FAQ

How to minimise chemotherapy side effects? 

There are many ways to minimise chemotherapy side effects. Firstly, open communication with your treatment team and oncologist is essential, as they can tailor your treatment plan and prescribe different natural and conventional medications to manage symptoms effectively.

In recent years, medicinal cannabis has emerged as a promising addition to potentially help alleviate various chemotherapy side effects, including nausea, vomiting, pain, and loss of appetite. Consulting with a healthcare provider experienced in medical cannabis can help you explore its potential benefits while ensuring safe and effective use alongside traditional treatments.

Maintaining a balanced diet, staying hydrated, managing pain, and incorporating supportive therapies like exercise, psychological support, and complementary therapies can further enhance your ability to cope with chemotherapy side effects. 

How to help chemo nausea?

Managing chemotherapy-induced nausea can be a challenging aspect of cancer treatment, but there are several strategies to help alleviate this discomfort. Your treatment team and oncologist can prescribe anti-nausea medications (antiemetics) tailored to your specific needs.

Additionally, you may want to consider discussing the use of medicinal cannabis with a healthcare provider experienced in its administration. Some patients find that cannabis, particularly formulations with THC, can be helpful in reducing nausea. However, it's essential to ensure legal and safe access and consult a healthcare professional for guidance.

Incorporating complementary approaches like acupressure wristbands, ginger, dietary adjustments, and mind-body techniques can also provide relief. These methods, combined with staying hydrated, avoiding triggers, and staying informed about your treatment plan, can help you cope with nausea and improve your overall quality of life.

Medical Conditions

Natural Therapies: Medicinal Cannabis, IBS, IBD and More

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Natural Therapies: Medicinal Cannabis, IBS, IBD and More

Digestive problems, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), can cause discomfort and frustration. These conditions often lead to unpredictable bouts of pain, bloating, and bowel irregularities, making everyday activities a challenge.

Digestive problems, medically known as gastrointestinal conditions, are disorders and ailments that affect the digestive system, which includes the stomach and small and large intestines. Common gastrointestinal conditions include IBS, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and diverticulitis.

Conventional treatments for gut problems often include a mix of traditional pharmaceutical medications, lifestyle changes, and dietary restrictions. However, these solutions don’t always provide relief, are hard to maintain, or may come with unwanted side effects.

Medicinal cannabis (historically known as medical weed or medical marijuana, learn more about the importance of language here), is gaining scientific recognition for its potential to manage symptoms associated with digestive problems in some patients. It’s been shown to help some patients with inflammation and pain, or even help with uncomfortable symptoms like diarrhoea, constipation and nausea. 

Medicinal cannabis may help some people improve their gut health naturally and provide a natural treatment alternative for conditions like IBS and IBD. 

Read on to explore the science behind medicinal cannabis and digestive problems, and how you can explore natural therapies in Australia.

What are gastrointestinal diseases? 

Gastrointestinal (GI) conditions, also called digestive disorders, are a wide range of medical issues that affect the digestive system, including the oesophagus, stomach, small and large intestines, liver, gallbladder, and pancreas.

These conditions can disrupt the normal functioning of the digestive system, leading to a variety of uncomfortable symptoms and health complications. Digestive conditions can arise from a myriad of causes, including genetic predisposition, infections, dietary factors, autoimmune responses, and lifestyle choices.

Diagnosis, treatment, and management of digestive conditions can be exhausting and time-consuming. It can be difficult to get a diagnosis quickly, as many gastrointestinal conditions share many of the same symptoms. In fact, people with IBS can wait up to four years to get a diagnosis.

Effective condition management often requires a collaborative effort among healthcare professionals specialising in gastroenterology, nutrition, and other relevant fields, like medicinal cannabis specialists. Gastroenterologists are experts in diagnosing and treating these conditions, utilising a combination of clinical evaluations, imaging tests, and laboratory assessments to pinpoint the issue accurately. 

Types of Gastrointestinal (GI) Conditions 

Digestive conditions encompass a wide spectrum of disorders that affect the gastrointestinal (GI) system, ranging from common issues like acid reflux to more complex conditions such as irritable bowel disease (IBS) or Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Some common gastrointestinal conditions include:

  • Acid Reflux (GERD): Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), occurs when stomach acid flows back into the oesophagus, causing symptoms like heartburn, chest pain, and regurgitation.

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): IBS is a common functional gastrointestinal disorder characterised by abdominal pain, bloating, and changes in bowel habits, such as diarrhoea, constipation, or a combination of both.

  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): IBD includes conditions like Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, which involve chronic inflammation of the digestive tract, leading to symptoms such as severe diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and weight loss.

  • Diverticulitis: This condition occurs when small pouches (diverticula) in the colon become inflamed or infected, causing abdominal pain, fever, and changes in bowel habits. Medicinal cannabis may help some people manage acute pain, but patients will typically need antibiotics to treat diverticulitis.

  • Gastroenteritis: Commonly referred to as "stomach flu," gastroenteritis involves inflammation of the stomach and intestines, leading to symptoms such as diarrhoea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps.

  • Peptic Ulcers: These are open sores that develop on the inner lining of the stomach or the upper part of the small intestine, often caused by infection with H. pylori bacteria or the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Medicinal Cannabis and Gastrointestinal (GI) Conditions 

Medicinal cannabis may hold promise in providing some relief for a variety of gut symptoms associated with common gastrointestinal (GI) conditions. These symptoms can often disrupt daily life and diminish the quality of life for those affected.

Medicinal cannabis may help some people:

  • Reduce Abdominal Pain:

Medicinal cannabis may help reduce abdominal pain for some patients, a common and distressing symptom found in numerous GI disorders, including Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Crohn's Disease, and Ulcerative Colitis.

By modulating pain perception and mitigating gut inflammation, medicinal cannabis may provide much-needed relief to those grappling with chronic abdominal discomfort. This relief can significantly improve the quality of life for individuals burdened by such symptoms.

  • Reduce Nausea and Vomiting:

Medicinal cannabis may  help reduce nausea and vomiting, which are common in gastrointestinal conditions such as IBS, gastroenteritis, and GERD. Compounds like THC found in medicinal cannabis have well-established anti-nausea properties, rendering it an effective resource for managing both acute and chronic nausea in some patients.

  • Diarrhoea and Constipation:

In gastrointestinal (GI) conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), individuals often experience diarrhoea, constipation or both. Medicinal cannabis offers potential relief for some patients by aiding in the regulation of bowel movements.

For those dealing with diarrhoea, certain cannabinoids found in medicinal cannabis can slow gut motility, potentially reducing the frequency of bowel movements. On the other hand, the muscle-relaxing properties of medical cannabis may be particularly beneficial in alleviating constipation, providing individuals with more comfortable and regular bowel function.

  • Appetite Stimulation:

Some gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, including conditions like Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and Peptic Ulcers, can cause reduced appetite and weight loss. Medicinal cannabis is known for its ability to stimulate appetite in some patients, offering a potential solution for individuals struggling with adequate food intake.

  • Manage Gut Inflammation:

Chronic gut inflammation is common in conditions like Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Crohn's Disease, and Ulcerative Colitis. Medicinal cannabis, known for its anti-inflammatory compounds, holds promise in addressing ongoing inflammation within the gastrointestinal tract for some patients.\

By reducing inflammation, medicinal cannabis may contribute to the improvement of symptoms associated with these conditions, and may provide relief to some people struggling with their gut health.

Interestingly, as gastrointestinal conditions like IBS have been linked with anxiety depression, medicinal cannabis may support gut health but both reduce inflammation and reduce anxiety. 

  • Potentially Reduce Heartburn and Acid Reflux:

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is frequently associated with severe heartburn and discomfort. Although further research is required, there have been reports of individuals experiencing relief from GERD symptoms through the use of medicinal cannabis. While the efficacy of medicinal cannabis in managing GERD is an evolving area of study, it holds potential as a complementary approach to alleviate the discomfort associated with this condition.

  • Reduce Bloating and Gas:

Conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Functional Dyspepsia can result in excessive gas and bloating. Medicinal cannabis may help reduce these symptoms by influencing gut motility in some patients.

Remember: the effectiveness of medicinal cannabis in managing GI conditions can vary from person to person. Additionally, the use of medicinal cannabis should be approached cautiously. Make sure you discuss any potential natural therapy treatment plans with a knowledgeable healthcare professional to ensure that medicinal cannabis is right for you and your healthcare goals.

Possible Risks of Medical Cannabis for Gastrointestinal (GI) Conditions 

While not everyone will experience adverse effects, it's important to be aware of potential risks associated with medical cannabis for Gastrointestinal (GI) Conditions:

  • Cognitive Effects: Depending on the compounds present and their concentrations, medical cannabis might lead to cognitive effects, including impaired memory and concentration.

  • Interactions and Side Effects: Just like any medication, medical cannabis could interact with other medications you're taking. Side effects, though potentially fewer than with traditional medications, still warrant careful consideration.

  • Psychoactive Effects of THC: The psychoactive nature of THC may not be appropriate for people with certain mood disorders, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. 

A comprehensive discussion with a caring medical professional can help you navigate possible risks and make an informed decision about whether medical cannabis could be right for you. 

The Wrap Up

Gastrointestinal conditions can pose significant challenges, often causing discomfort and disrupting daily life. Medicinal cannabis emerges as a promising natural alternative for some individuals dealing with conditions, such as IBS and IBD. Research shows that medicinal cannabis may help some patients with a range of gastrointestinal symptoms, including pain, nausea, diarrhoea, constipation, and appetite loss. 

Medicinal Cannabis and Gastrointestinal Conditions — FAQs

What is the best medication for IBS?

The choice of medication for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) depends on the individual's specific symptoms and needs. For some, dietary modifications and lifestyle changes, such as increasing fibre intake and managing stress, may suffice. Others may benefit from over-the-counter medications like antispasmodics or antidiarrheal drugs to alleviate symptoms.

In more severe cases, prescription medications like low-dose antidepressants or medications targeting specific symptoms, such as constipation or diarrhoea, may be recommended by a healthcare provider. It's worth noting that medicinal cannabis, particularly CBD-rich products, has gained attention for its potential to alleviate IBS symptoms, including abdominal pain and discomfort, though more research is needed to fully understand its efficacy. Ultimately, the choice of medication, including the consideration of medicinal cannabis, should be made in consultation with a healthcare professional who can assess the individual's condition and tailor the treatment plan accordingly.

Is GERD curable permanently?

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is typically considered a chronic condition, and a complete permanent cure may be challenging to achieve. However, it is manageable with a combination of lifestyle modifications, dietary changes, and medications.

Lifestyle adjustments include elevating the head of the bed, avoiding large meals close to bedtime, and weight management. Medications like proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) can help reduce acid production and alleviate symptoms.

While some individuals have reported symptom relief with medicinal cannabis, particularly CBD, due to its potential anti-inflammatory and relaxing effects, more research is needed to establish its long-term efficacy and safety for GERD. It's essential for individuals with GERD to work closely with a healthcare provider to develop a tailored treatment plan that addresses their specific needs and monitors their condition over time.

Medical Conditions

Natural Therapies: Medicinal Cannabis and Chronic Pain

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Natural Therapies: Medicinal Cannabis and Chronic Pain

Chronic pain can be extremely challenging for patients, medical professionals, and caregivers. It significantly impacts not only the physical well-being of those experiencing it, but can also affect people’s emotional and psychological health.

Chronic pain is a complex condition that can be difficult to treat and manage long-term. Patients often live with seemingly relentless discomfort and frequent disruptions to their daily lives. That’s why it’s so important for medical professionals to provide pain management plans that consider the individual's unique conditions and needs.

While traditional pharmaceutical pain medications, like opioids or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), have been the go-to solution for chronic pain in the past, they often come with undesirable side effects and the risk of dependence.

Medicinal cannabis (historically known as medical weed or medical marijuana, learn more about the importance of language here) is becoming more recognised by patients and the medical community for its potential to provide relief from chronic pain in some patients through a more natural approach. Read on to find out how medical cannabis may help manage chronic pain in some patients, understand the risk of medicinal cannabis treatments and how you can explore options for medicinal cannabis treatments in Australia.

Understanding Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is defined by persistent pain that lasts for 3 months or more. It’s characterised by persistent discomfort that extends beyond the expected time for healing, can lead to ongoing pain, and can affect your mobility, sleep, mental health and general quality of life.

Chronic pain can be caused by a multitude of underlying causes, ranging from medical conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, and neuropathy to past injuries or surgeries. This complex interplay of factors can make chronic pain a challenging condition to manage effectively.

Medical professionals employ a variety of approaches to address chronic pain, including medications, physical therapy, and even psychological interventions like cognitive-behavioural therapy.

Beyond its immediate physical effects, chronic pain can lead to emotional distress, such as anxiety and depression, as people deal with the ongoing discomfort, and limitations on their activities, personal relationships and social connections.

Recognizing the multifaceted nature of chronic pain, support networks, including healthcare providers, family, and friends, play a crucial role in providing both practical assistance and emotional encouragement to those navigating the challenges of persistent pain.

Chronic Pain: Types of Pain

Chronic pain is not experienced in the same way by everyone. It can manifest in various sensations, including aching, burning, stabbing, or throbbing sensations.  There are various types of chronic pain, each originating from different sources and affecting different areas of the body. 

Some common types of chronic pain people seek help for include:

  • Back Pain: This is one of the most prevalent types of chronic pain, often stemming from conditions like herniated discs, spinal stenosis, or muscle strains. Around 85% of people experience chronic back pain.

  • Arthritis Pain: Arthritis is the most common cause of chronic pain, affecting roughly one in two adults. Conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can lead to chronic joint pain and inflammation.

  • Neuropathic Pain: Caused by damage or dysfunction in the nervous system, neuropathic pain can result from conditions like diabetic neuropathy, post-herpetic neuralgia, or nerve injuries.

  • Headaches and Migraines: Chronic tension headaches and migraines can cause ongoing pain, often accompanied by other symptoms like sensitivity to light and sound. Medical cannabis has been shown to help decrease pain intensity, and daily pharmaceutical use and dependence.

  • Fibromyalgia: This is characterised by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and tenderness. People with fibromyalgia are sometimes told that their pain can’t be treated, but research shows treatments, like medicinal cannabis can help.

  • Pelvic Pain: Conditions like endometriosis, interstitial cystitis, and chronic prostatitis can lead to chronic pelvic pain.

  • Abdominal Pain: Conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn's disease, and gastritis can result in ongoing abdominal pain.

  • Cancer Pain: Some forms of cancer, especially when they spread or press on nerves, can lead to chronic pain. This kind of ongoing pain often requires treatments that can be used alongside chemotherapy or radiation.

  • Neck Pain: Similar to back pain, conditions like cervical disc degeneration or muscle strain can cause chronic pain in the neck region.

  • Pain after Surgery or Injury: Sometimes, pain can persist long after a surgery or injury has healed, leading to chronic pain conditions.

This is not an exhaustive list of conditions that can lead to chronic pain symptoms — in fact, many illnesses, musculoskeletal problems, injuries, surgeries or cancers can lead to ongoing pain.

Whatever the cause of your pain, it is important to talk to your doctor about potential treatments that can help you find relief and improve your quality of life.

The Endocannabinoid System and Pain Modulation

Learning how to manage pain naturally can be challenging. Fortunately, medical cannabis provides a safe and effective option for many patients. This is because the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which plays a crucial role in regulating various physiological processes in the body, interacts with the compounds present in medical cannabis treatments known as cannabinoids.

These cannabinoids, such as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol), can bind to receptors within the ECS, potentially modulating pain perception, inflammation, and even mood. As a result, medical cannabis has gained attention as a potential way to alleviate pain for some patients, especially in cases where traditional treatments may be inadequate or accompanied by unwanted side effects.

However, it's important for patients to work collaboratively with their doctors to determine the appropriate dosage, strain, and mode of consumption to ensure the best possible outcomes while considering individual medical histories and needs.

Is Medicinal Cannabis a Safe Chronic Pain Treatment?

One of the potential advantages of medicinal cannabis in pain management is its potential to offer relief without the same level of risk associated with traditional pain medications for some patients. Opioids, for instance, can lead to dependence, tolerance, and overdose. In contrast, some people with chronic pain taking medicinal cannabis may have a lower risk of dependence and overdose. 

Remember: while medicinal cannabis may be a safer alternative for some, it’s still important to talk to your doctor about potential risks. The psychoactive effects of THC, for example, can impact cognitive function and may not be suitable for people with bipolar or schizophrenia.

The Wrap Up:

Medicinal cannabis may be an effective natural alternative for some patients when it comes to managing chronic pain. While traditional pain medications often come with side effects and risks, including addiction and overdose, medicinal cannabis may provide a lower-risk option for some patients.

Medicinal cannabis may help reduce pain in some patients by interacting with the body's endocannabinoid system (ECS) through compounds like THC and CBD, binding to CB1 and CB2 receptors to regulate pain, mood, and inflammation.

Polln helps Australian patients living with chronic pain access natural care for chronic pain relief, and support them with a safe and holistic approach to long-term pain management.

Chronic Pain: FAQs

Is Chronic Pain a Disability?  

In Australia, chronic pain may potentially be classified as a disability under the Disability Discrimination Act of 1992 if it significantly limits a person's ability to undertake important daily activities.

Not all cases of chronic pain will be considered disabilities. The severity of the pain, the impact of the pain on the person's ability to function, and the presence of other symptoms will all be taken into account.

How to get pain medications for chronic pain?

To manage chronic pain and obtain pain medications, start by consulting a healthcare professional, for accurate diagnosis and personalised guidance. Non-medication approaches like physical therapy and relaxation techniques should be considered first. Medicinal cannabis may help some patients with chronic pain,  but it’s important to speak to an expert who has experience in the prescription of medicinal cannabis to have an open discussion about potential risks and benefits first.

Make sure you follow legal and ethical guidelines, and communicate openly about your pain level and experiences. Regular monitoring and adjustments to the treatment plan may be necessary. Remember that a holistic approach, which could involve lifestyle changes and emotional support, is often effective in managing chronic pain.

Medical Conditions

Natural Therapies: Medicinal Cannabis and Autoimmune Conditions

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Natural Therapies: Medicinal Cannabis and Autoimmune Conditions

Living with autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and other debilitating disorders can be an uphill battle. Autoimmune conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis (RA), differ from chronic issues like osteoarthritis, as they involve the immune system mistakenly attacking the body's own tissues, leading to chronic inflammation and potential damage to joints and other organs.

Some common autoimmune disorders include rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), type 1 diabetes, Hashimoto's thyroiditis, Graves' disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), celiac disease, psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and Sjögren's syndrome, just to name a few. These conditions can affect any part of your body — from your brain to your toes, among others.

Conventional treatments for both inflammation and autoimmune disorders often rely on steroids and other immune-suppressing medications, but these solutions can cause unwanted side effects and can potentially weaken the immune system.

In recent years, medicinal cannabis (historically known as medical weed or medical marijuana, learn more about the importance of language here), has garnered increased attention within the medical community and among patients for its potential to alleviate the symptoms of autoimmune conditions and inflammatory disorders through a more natural approach.

Read on to explore how medical cannabis may offer relief for autoimmune conditions in some patients, understand the risks of natural medicine and learn about your options for accessing medicinal cannabis treatments in Australia.

What are autoimmune disorders?

Autoimmune disorders, also called autoimmune diseases, are a group of medical conditions in which the immune system, which is designed to protect the body from harmful invaders like bacteria and viruses, mistakenly targets and attacks the body's own healthy tissues and cells.  

This immune system dysfunction results in chronic inflammation and tissue damage. Autoimmune disorders can affect virtually any organ or tissue in the body, leading to a wide variety of symptoms. Some people experience only mild symptoms, while others can have severe, life-altering, and sometimes permanent effects.

Autoimmune disorders are up to four times more likely in women than in men. While the reasons for this are uncertain, it's thought that hormones, environmental factors, or our microbiome might contribute. 

Most autoimmune disorders are chronic, meaning they persist over a long period of time. Managing symptoms and preventing complications often requires ongoing treatment, active monitoring, and positive lifestyle adjustments.

Thankfully, research into autoimmune disorders has led to significant advancements in treatment options, including more selective immunosuppressive drugs, targeted biologic therapies, and tailored medicinal cannabis options that help modulate the immune system's response.

What causes autoimmune disorders?

While certain autoimmune conditions, such as Type 1 diabetes (predominantly genetic) or multiple sclerosis (potentially triggered by factors like the Epstein-Barr virus), have defined causes, it's not known why many other autoimmune diseases occur.

While the causes are not fully understood for some conditions, it’s generally believed that they may arise from a combination of genetic predisposition, environmental influences, and hormonal factors.

Autoimmune disorders may be caused by:

  • Genetic Predisposition: There is often a genetic component to autoimmune diseases, meaning they tend to run in families. Specific genes may increase the susceptibility to developing autoimmune conditions.
  • Environmental Triggers: Environmental factors such as infections, exposure to certain chemicals or pollutants, and even dietary factors may trigger or exacerbate autoimmune responses in genetically predisposed individuals.
  • Hormonal Factors: Hormonal changes, particularly in women, can influence the development and severity of autoimmune disorders. For example, some autoimmune conditions may worsen during pregnancy or as a result of hormonal fluctuations.
  • Immune System Dysregulation: These dysfunctions can lead to the immune system mistakenly identifying the body's own tissues as foreign invaders, initiating an autoimmune response.
  • Complex Interactions: The development of autoimmune disorders is often the result of complex interactions between genetic, environmental, and hormonal factors. The exact mechanisms by which these factors interact to trigger autoimmunity are still an active area of research.
  • Idiopathic: In some cases, the cause of autoimmune disorders remains idiopathic, meaning it is unknown or not yet fully understood. Despite significant advancements in autoimmune research, there are instances where the precise trigger for the development of these conditions cannot be identified

It's important to note that while these factors are associated with the development of autoimmune disorders, the precise cause can vary from person to person and from one autoimmune condition to another. Our immune system is constantly protecting us from a variety of risks, so there are a lot of steps and processes that can go wrong. Understanding these factors is crucial for advancing our knowledge of autoimmune diseases and improving treatment and prevention strategies.

Challenges of Conventional Treatments for Autoimmune Disorders

Traditional medications have proven beneficial in managing symptoms and preventing complications linked to autoimmune disorders, however,  they can also come with some drawbacks, including health risks, limitations, and varying efficacy levels.

One common, initial, symptom-based treatment approach involves nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or aspirin. These can effectively reduce pain and inflammation but may also lead to side effects like gastrointestinal issues and bleeding. Prolonged NSAID use can even result in more serious complications such as gastric ulcers and cardiovascular problems.

Corticosteroids, potent anti-inflammatory drugs, are another option. While effective at suppressing inflammation, they can bring about unwelcome effects like weight gain, mood swings, and immune system suppression with prolonged usage. This is why corticosteroids are commonly prescribed in 'burst' to reduce side effects.

Other immunosuppressive medications, often prescribed for autoimmune disorders, can help reduce inflammation but may affect the body's ability to fend off certain types of infections.

Given these challenges, there's a growing interest in exploring complementary and natural therapies like medicinal cannabis, dietary adjustments, herbal supplements, or other lifestyle changes as complementary therapies for managing symptoms of autoimmune disorders while minimising potential risks associated with conventional treatments.

Medicinal Cannabis and Autoimmune Conditions

Medicinal cannabis is gaining attention as a natural alternative for symptoms of autoimmune disorders, with increasing interest in its ability to modulate the immune system's inflammatory responses, reduce symptoms, and enhance the quality of life for those living with autoimmune conditions marked by chronic inflammation.

Here are some autoimmune disorders where medicinal cannabis may offer therapeutic benefits for some patients:

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune inflammatory ailment primarily impacting joints, results in pain, swelling, and joint damage. Medicinal cannabis, CBD (cannabidiol), applied to the skin or ingested/inhaled may offer rheumatoid arthritis relief by reducing pain and joint inflammation.
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): Conditions such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, both forms of IBD, cause inflammation in the digestive tract, leading to symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhoea, and weight loss. Medical cannabis, notably cannabinoids CBD and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), shows promise in managing IBD symptoms for some patients.
  • Psoriasis: Psoriasis is characterised by thick, red, scaly skin patches due to inflammation. Patients may find relief from topical medical cannabis-based products, such as creams or ointments containing CBD or THC, which may be able to help reduce skin inflammation.
  • Other Dermatological Conditions: Skin conditions like eczema (atopic dermatitis) and hidradenitis suppurativa involve chronic inflammation. Topical medical cannabis-based products, particularly those with CBD, may play a role in alleviating skin inflammation and improving symptoms.
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS): Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune neuroinflammatory disease affecting the central nervous system. Medicinal cannabis, particularly oral medications containing THC and CBD, has been explored for its potential in managing symptoms. These medications may help manage MS symptoms such as pain, muscle spasms, and spasticity in some patients.
  • Lupus (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, SLE): Some research has explored the potential of medical cannabis to manage symptoms associated with lupus, such as pain, inflammation, and joint stiffness. However, more research is needed to determine the safety and effectiveness of cannabis in managing SLE.

Remember: the efficacy of medicinal cannabis in addressing symptoms of autoimmune disorders can vary from person to person. Before starting on any natural therapies, it's important to talk to a knowledgeable healthcare professional to weigh the risks and benefits of medicinal cannabis for your condition and health needs. 

How Can Medicinal Cannabis Impact Autoimmune Conditions?

Medicinal cannabis, specifically its active compounds such as cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), interacts with the body's endocannabinoid system (ECS), which plays an important role in regulating various bodily processes, including the immune system. 

Although exactly how medicinal cannabis helps treat autoimmune disorders is not fully understood, it is thought to potentially help manage symptoms due to: 

  • Anti-Inflammatory Effects: Both CBD and THC have demonstrated anti-inflammatory properties. In immune disorders characterised by chronic inflammation, such as autoimmune diseases, this anti-inflammatory action can help reduce the immune system's overactive response, which is often responsible for tissue damage and symptoms.
  • Immunomodulation: Medicinal cannabis compounds can modulate the immune system, meaning they have the ability to either enhance or suppress immune responses. In autoimmune disorders where the immune system is attacking healthy tissues, the immunosuppressive properties of certain cannabinoids may help reduce this harmful immune activity.
  • Pain Management: Many individuals with autoimmune disorders experience pain as a prominent symptom. Medical cannabis, particularly THC, can provide pain relief by acting on pain receptors in the brain and nervous system. By reducing pain perception, it can improve the quality of life for individuals with autoimmune conditions.
  • Neuroprotection: In some autoimmune disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, the immune system attacks the central nervous system. Medicinal cannabis compounds, particularly THC and CBD, have been studied for their potential neuroprotective effects. It may help preserve nerve function and reduce symptoms like muscle spasms and spasticity (as a secondary treatment).

While medicinal cannabis may offer therapeutic benefits for some people, it may also have side effects and interactions with other medications. As such, it should be used under medical supervision and guidance.

Possible Risks of Medical Cannabis for Autoimmune Disorders

While not everyone will experience adverse effects, it's important to be aware of potential risks associated with medical cannabis for autoimmune disorders:

  • Cognitive Effects: Depending on the compounds present and their concentrations, medical cannabis might lead to cognitive effects, including impaired memory and concentration.
  • Interactions and Side Effects: Just like any medication, medical cannabis could interact with other medications you're taking. Side effects, though side effects are generally uncommon, still warrant careful consideration.
  • Psychoactive Effects of THC: The intoxicating nature of THC may not be appropriate for people with certain mood disorders, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. 

A comprehensive discussion with an expert medical professional can help you navigate possible risks and make an informed decision about whether medical cannabis could be right for you. 

The Wrap Up

Living with autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, presents persistent challenges that require effective, long-term management. While conventional treatments, like NSAIDs, corticosteroids, and biologics can provide relief, they can still come with side effects like peptic ulcers, weight gain and mood swings. There is a need for complementary therapies, such as medicinal cannabis, to help manage autoimmune symptoms. 

Autoimmune Conditions, FAQs:

Does rheumatoid arthritis make you tired?

Yes, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can often lead to fatigue. The chronic inflammation and pain associated with RA can be physically and mentally draining, causing persistent tiredness and a lack of energy. Additionally, the immune system's overactivity in RA can contribute to feelings of fatigue.

Some RA medications, such as methotrexate, which is commonly prescribed, can also cause fatigue as a side effect. In some cases, individuals with RA may explore alternative treatments like medicinal cannabis to manage pain and fatigue, as it has shown potential in alleviating these symptoms in some patients.

Is methotrexate the best treatment for rheumatoid arthritis?

Methotrexate is commonly used as a first-line treatment for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and is often considered one of the most effective disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) for RA. However, whether it is the "best" treatment for a particular individual with RA depends on various factors, including the severity of the disease, the individual's medical history, their response to the medication, and any potential side effects.

RA is a complex condition, and treatment plans are typically tailored to each patient's specific needs. Some individuals with RA may not respond well to methotrexate alone or may experience severe side effects. In such cases, rheumatologists may explore other DMARDs, medicinal cannabis, or biologic medications, often in combination with methotrexate or as alternatives.

Ultimately, the choice of the "best" treatment for rheumatoid arthritis is a decision made by a healthcare provider in consultation with the patient, taking into consideration the individual's unique circumstances and preferences.

Patient Education

The Caregiver's Guide to Medicinal Cannabis

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The Caregiver's Guide to Medicinal Cannabis

Welcome to the Caregivers’ Guide to Medicinal Cannabis. As a caregiver, we understand that ensuring the well-being of your loved one during an illness can be challenging. Whether you’re looking after elderly parents, taking care of elderly family members, or caring for someone else important in your life – caregiving is a big responsibility. That’s why we’re dedicated to helping caregivers and providing them with the knowledge and support they need to care for themselves and their loved ones.

Medicinal cannabis has been shown to help people with a variety of physical and mental health issues. From glaucoma to chronic pain, chemotherapy and even sleep problems, medicinal cannabis has the potential to help some chronically or terminally ill people, including ageing parents, to manage symptoms, enhance their comfort, and improve quality of life.

This guide has been created for caregivers just like you, so that they can better understand the fundamentals of medicinal cannabis, explore the science behind medicinal cannabis, and find out how to potentially integrate medicinal cannabis into your loved one's care routine. 

Understanding Medicinal Cannabis as a Caregiver

If you’re thinking about medicinal cannabis for an elderly parent or loved one, a good first step is to get to know the medicinal cannabis basics, including its therapeutic effects, potential risks, administration methods, how medicinal cannabis differs from recreational use, and the legalities of medicinal cannabis in Australia. Let’s get started. 

What is a caregiver?

A caregiver is someone who provides care and support to another person who may be unable to fully take care of themselves due to age, illness, disability, or other challenges.

Caregivers help with daily tasks, offer emotional support, and ensure the well-being of those they care for. You may be looking after elderly parents, taking care of elderly family members, or caring for a child or a friend.

What Is Medicinal Cannabis? 

Medicinal cannabis is a type of natural therapy with therapeutic chemical compounds, most notably tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) that have been shown to provide a range of health benefits and manage various conditions.

These chemical compounds engage with the body's endocannabinoid system (a network of receptors that control numerous bodily functions) to help people manage short-term, chronic, and end-of-life conditions.

Cannabis plants contain a wide variety of cannabinoids, each with its own potential effects and properties. Some of the most well-known and studied cannabinoids found in cannabis plants include:

Just like there are different types of common medications, there are different types of medical cannabis treatments. Treatments vary in terms of the format they come in (e.g. oils, dry herb flower that is vaporised, topicals, wafers and more), the cannabinoid and terpene content and potency.

Caring for Elderly Parents: How Medicinal Cannabis May Help

Caring for elderly parents comes with its own unique set of challenges but medicinal cannabis can support you in providing ageing parents with additional pain relief and comfort. In Australia, medicinal cannabis is becoming recognized for its wide-ranging therapeutic benefits for age-related conditions.

From providing chronic pain and arthritis relief to tackling sleep disorders and glaucoma in some patients, medicinal cannabis has the potential to offer a multifaceted approach to enhancing the well-being of seniors.

What are Cannabinoids and What Do They Do?

Cannabinoids are a group of naturally occurring chemical compounds that interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). In medicinal cannabis, there are several types of cannabinoids that work in the body in different ways.

  • Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC:) This is one of the main cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. THC is commonly known as a psychoactive cannabinoid as it gives people a ‘high’ euphoric sensation that many people associate with cannabis use. THC modulates the ECS by binding with CB1 receptors in the brain. In addition to creating a high THC has many therapeutic applications, including reducing pain, alleviating nausea, and boosting appetite.

  • Cannabidiol (CBD): This is another common cannabinoid found in medicinal cannabis. Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive and doesn’t create a ‘high’ sensation as CBD does not bind with the CB1 receptor responsible for the euphoric feeling.
    Instead, CBD interacts indirectly with our endocannabinoid system to modulate our opioid, dopamine, and serotonin receptors, which may help reduce anxiety, reduce inflammation, and regulate our mood and emotions

There is also increasing evidence for the therapeutic potential of minor cannabinoids:

  • Cannabinol (CBN): This cannabinoid is being researched for its anticonvulsant, and sedative potential. CBN is created during the breakdown of the psychoactive cannabinoid THC. Like THC, CBN also binds to the CB1 receptor, but at a much lower strength than THC.

    While CBN is technically a psychoactive compound, it doesn’t produce a significant ‘high’. This is because CBN primarily modulates CB2 receptors that are associated with immune system regulation.
  • Cannabigerol (CBG): CBG is considered a precursor to other cannabinoids, as it is converted into THC, CBD, and other compounds as the plant matures. It is present in lower concentrations compared to THC and CBD. CBG may have potential as an anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective agent.
  • Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV): THCV is a cannabinoid that is structurally similar to THC, but it produces different effects. It is found in trace amounts in most cannabis strains, but some strains are bred to have higher THCV content. THCV may have appetite-suppressing and potential antiepileptic properties.

  • Cannabichromene (CBC): CBC is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that is being studied for its potential anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects. It is found in relatively low concentrations in medicinal cannabis.

  • Cannabidivarin (CBDV): CBDV is structurally similar to CBD and is being investigated for its potential anti-epileptic properties. It is found in minor amounts in medicinal cannabis. 
  • Delta-8-Tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta-8-THC): Similar to Delta-9-THC, Delta-8-THC has psychoactive effects, albeit typically milder. It is found in very low concentrations in medicinal cannabis.

The cannabinoid profile of a medicinal cannabis treatment can vary significantly based on factors such as genetics, growing conditions, and processing methods. Researchers are continuing to study these cannabinoids to better understand their individual effects and potential therapeutic applications.

What are Medicinal Cannabis Terpenes and What Do They Do? 

Terpenes (pronounced tur-peens) are the organic, aromatic compounds found in plants, including cannabis. Until recently, much of the cannabis industry has been focused almost solely on the therapeutic qualities of cannabinoids like THC and CBD.

However, as our knowledge of terpenes continues to grow and cannabis science expands, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that these aromatic compounds are medicinal powerhouses in their own right.

Within different strains, you’ll find specific terpenes. Again, just like with wine or other plants, terpenes are aromatic compounds that contribute to the plant's distinct smell and flavour. They also interact with cannabinoids and may influence the effects of medicinal cannabis consumption

There are more than 100 different terpenes identified in cannabis plants, each with its own unique aroma, flavour, and potential therapeutic properties, however, some common terpenes include:

  • Myrcene: This is one of the most abundant terpenes in medicinal cannabis. It has an earthy, herbal, and slightly fruity aroma. Myrcene is also found in hops or basil or even earthy Merlots.
  • Limonene: As the name suggests, limonene has a citrusy aroma. It's associated with elevated mood and stress relief. 
  • Pinene: There are two types of pinene: alpha-pinene and beta-pinene. Alpha-pinene has a piney aroma, while beta-pinene has a spicier scent. It's also found in pine trees and rosemary.
  • Caryophyllene: This terpene has a spicy, peppery aroma. It's thought to have anti-inflammatory properties. Caryophyllene is also found in black pepper and cloves.
  • Linalool: Linalool has a floral, lavender-like scent. It's often associated with relaxation and stress relief. Linalool is found in many flowers and herbs, including lavender.
  • Humulene: With an earthy, woody aroma, humulene is also found in hops and has potential anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Terpinolene: This has a complex aroma that can be floral, piney, and even a bit herbal. It's thought to have sedative effects and is also found in nutmeg and cumin.
  • Ocimene: Ocimene has a sweet, herbal, and sometimes fruity scent. It's thought to have antiviral and antifungal properties.
  • Borneol: Borneol has a menthol-like scent and is often associated with calming effects. It's also found in herbs like mint and camphor.
  • Eucalyptol: This has a fresh, minty aroma. It's commonly found in eucalyptus trees and has the potential for respiratory benefits.

Each medicinal cannabis treatment will vary in cannabinoid and terpene content and each patient has unique needs so it’s important to work with experienced medical cannabis clinics or an experienced doctor to determine the best treatment plan for your loved one.

How to Administer Medicinal Cannabis

As a caregiver, you might wonder how your loved one or your ageing parents would take medicinal cannabis. Many people unfamiliar with this medication may only know of the inhalation method for medicinal cannabis (smoking/vaping) but there are actually many administration methods for medicinal cannabis that can be personalised to your loved one’s preferences and needs.

Common administration methods include:

  • Sublingual:  This involves placing the treatment under the tongue, a method which allows active ingredients to be absorbed directly into the blood vessels of your tongue, bypassing the digestive system and therefore making it suitable for elderly people seeking quick relief. Treatments taken sublingually can come in the form of oils, tinctures, wafers, sprays and more.
  • Ingestion: Ingestion methods of cannabis consumption include any cannabis treatment that is consumed orally – such as cannabis edibles, tinctures, oils, capsules and extracts. While the effects of cannabinoid medicines will take longer to kick in when taken orally, they will also last longer. This method can be particularly appealing to people who prefer something familiar and convenient.
  • Topical: These are infused creams, balms, or patches that are applied directly to the skin, providing targeted relief for localised discomfort. This non-intrusive method can be helpful for targeting specific areas.
  • Inhalation: Vaporising medicinal cannabis provides fast relief, but this method might not be suitable for individuals with respiratory problems. Learn more about vaporising in the next section. Smoking is not a recommended administration method.

How Does Medicinal Cannabis Differ from Recreational Cannabis?

As a caregiver, you may not have a lot of knowledge about medicinal cannabis or you may have only heard of recreational cannabis before. If that’s the case — don’t worry! We’re here to help.

Medicinal cannabis (historically known as medical weed or medical marijuana, learn more about the importance of language here), is quite different from recreational cannabis. It involves the controlled and therapeutic use of cannabis plants to alleviate symptoms or manage specific medical conditions by modulating the body’s endocannabinoid system.

Unlike recreational use, which focuses on the THC component of the cannabis plant (sometimes known as a cannabis ‘high’), medicinal cannabis focuses on providing therapeutic relief. This may be achieved by using a medication that is not psychoactive, such as those containing CBD only, and/or by using a THC-containing medicine but at a lower dose than that required to produce a significant cannabis ‘high’.

Medicinal cannabis is prescribed by healthcare professionals who specialise in natural therapies. Like any medication, dosages, strains, and compositions will be carefully selected to cater to specific medical needs. Similarly, medicinal cannabis is highly regulated, requiring prescriptions and quality adherence to medical standards.

Is Medicinal Cannabis Legal in Australia?

Yes. Medicinal cannabis (also known as medical cannabis prescriptions) is legal in Australia and has been so since 2016. It’s recognised for its therapeutic benefits and can be accessed with a doctor's prescription. To ensure high-quality medication and treatment, it’s a good idea to go with a specialised medicinal cannabis clinic.

What Conditions May Be Supported with Medicinal Cannabis?

There is no predetermined list of conditions for which medicinal cannabis can be prescribed — instead a doctor will work with a patient to determine whether or not medicinal cannabis could help depending on the symptoms someone is experiencing.

However, some medical conditions where medicinal cannabis may offer potential therapeutic benefits, include: 

As many of these conditions affect older adults or ageing parents, natural treatment options, like medical cannabis, can be a good option to be used alone or in conjunction with other medications to relieve symptoms without significant side effects.

However, the effects of medicinal cannabis can vary from person to person. Caregivers should prioritise communication with medical experts when considering medicinal cannabis as part of their loved one's care plan.

What Are Some Potential Therapeutic Benefits of Medicinal Cannabis

Medicinal cannabis products have shown promise in providing various therapeutic effects and can potentially improve a range of symptoms and overall quality of life in some chronically ill or even terminally ill people.

Some ways your loved one may benefit from medicinal cannabis include:

  • Pain Management: Chronic pain is a common issue, often stemming from conditions such as arthritis, neuropathy, and musculoskeletal disorders. Medicinal cannabis, particularly with a balanced ratio of THC and CBD, has been reported to alleviate pain and improve mobility. By interacting with the endocannabinoid system, medicinal cannabis compounds may even help reduce inflammation to provide pain relief.
  • Anxiety Reduction: Anxiety and stress can significantly impact the mental well-being of people living with a chronic or life-limiting illness. CBD, a non-psychoactive compound found in medicinal cannabis, has shown potential in reducing anxiety symptoms. It may have a calming effect on the nervous system without the ‘high’ effects of THC.
  • Appetite Stimulation:  Many people living with severe illnesses (such as cancer) may experience an associated loss of appetite, leading to nutritional deficiencies and weight loss. Certain strains of medicinal cannabis, particularly those high in THC, have been known to increase appetite and improve food intake. This can be particularly helpful when caring for people undergoing chemotherapy.

  • Anti-Inflammatory Effects: Cannabinoids, especially CBD, have shown anti-inflammatory effects, which could be beneficial for conditions characterised by inflammation, such as autoimmune disorders and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
  • Neurological Condition Management: Some research suggests that medicinal cannabis might have neuroprotective properties and could be investigated for its potential in managing neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, and epilepsy.
  • Muscle Spasm and Tremor Management: Medicinal cannabis is being explored for its muscle relaxant properties, which may benefit individuals with conditions causing muscle spasms, tremors, or spasticity.
  • Eye Health: Medicinal cannabis may help reduce intraocular pressure, which could potentially benefit individuals with glaucoma.

  • Bone Health: Some research has suggested that cannabinoids might play a role in promoting bone health and even aiding in the healing of fractures.

Remember: individual responses to medicinal cannabis can vary greatly and what works well for one person may not work the same way for someone else.  As a caregiver, it’s important to talk with a healthcare professional, like a doctor who has experience in the prescription of natural therapies, before incorporating medicinal cannabis into your loved one’s care plan.

How to Access Medicinal Cannabis as a Caregiver

As a caregiver, exploring alternative treatment options like medicinal cannabis may be a new and unfamiliar territory, but we’re here to guide you through the process of helping your loved one access this potentially beneficial treatment. By understanding the steps involved, you can ensure an informed journey towards integrating medicinal cannabis into their care plan.

Check their eligibility for medicinal cannabis

To see if a loved one might be eligible for medicinal cannabis in Australia, ask yourself the following questions:

1) Do they have a chronic medical condition? Have they been experiencing symptoms for over three months? 

2) Have they tried other treatments prior to medicinal cannabis?

3) Have these other treatments failed to alleviate their symptoms, have they had adverse effects, or are you or your loved one concerned about the side effects?

If you said yes to the above, then their doctor could consider them a candidate for medicinal cannabis.

Start by Educating Your Loved One About Medicinal Cannabis

Take the time to talk to your loved one about medicinal cannabis and how it could potentially benefit them. Medicinal cannabis can sometimes be confusing for older patients, as it may have connotations of recreational cannabis or unconscious biases attached to it.

Talk to them about how medicinal cannabis works, explain the risks and benefits, and reassure them that medicinal cannabis is prescribed and monitored by qualified doctors.

Find the Right Medical Partner for You

Once you and your loved one feel on the same page about a potential course of medicinal cannabis, the next step is to consult with your regular healthcare professionals and medicinal cannabis specialists who have experience working with elderly patients.

Work with Your Healthcare Team to Develop a Care Plan

Once you find the right healthcare team, you can work closely with them to create a personalised care plan. By having a knowledgeable medicinal cannabis expert to guide you, you can make informed decisions about your loved one’s care and ensure that the plan aligns with their overall health goals and existing treatment regimen.

Their doctor will determine the appropriate starting dosage and strain of medicinal cannabis based on your loved one’s medical history and health condition. 

Access Your Loved One’s Prescriptions

Depending on the doctor or clinic you choose, your loved one will be able to access their medication in several ways. Some doctors will provide a prescription that can be picked up at a limited number of specialist pharmacies. Not every pharmacy will stock medicinal cannabis, or stock the medication that your loved one has been prescribed. In this case, make sure you do your research first to save time. 

Other medicinal cannabis clinics can arrange for medications to be sent express to your loved one's home or care facility. This can be particularly helpful to fit in with caregivers' busy lives and reduce the wait time between appointments and treatment. 

Help Administer Medicinal Cannabis to Your Loved One

Depending on your loved ones’ capabilities, you can either teach them how to use a medication administration method (such as vaping) or administer the medication to them each day.

There are many ways your loved one can consume medicinal cannabis — including ingestion (edibles), capsules, sublingual (under-the-tongue), and topicals. A doctor specialising in the prescription of medicinal cannabis will talk you through the application or consumption of whichever your loved one needs so that you can provide the medication to them.

If your loved one can take their own medications, it can be helpful to set up a pill box (i.e., for gummies, capsules or other edibles) or medication reminders, to ensure they are getting the correct dosage at the right times. 

Set Up Regular Doctor Check-Ins

Once your loved one has started a course of medicinal cannabis, you and your loved one’s doctor can schedule regular check-ins to assess their response to medicinal cannabis. At these appointments, the doctor can review changes in their symptoms, mood, sleep patterns, and overall well-being, and adjust their dosage of medication frequency if required. 

By following these step-by-step guidelines and working closely with healthcare experts, you can provide effective support and contribute to a positive experience for your loved one in exploring medicinal cannabis as a treatment option.

How to Monitor Your Loved One’s Medicinal Cannabis Treatment

As a caregiver, closely monitoring your loved one’s response to medicinal cannabis is an important part of ensuring their well-being and optimising their treatment's effectiveness. After they first start their course of medication, get a notebook or online document, to record the following:

  • Track Your Loved One’s Baseline:
    Before they are treated, document your loved one’s baseline symptoms — how do they feel? Track details such as pain levels, sleep patterns, mood, appetite, and any adverse effects. This baseline will serve as a reference point for assessing the impact of medicinal cannabis.

  • Track Any Symptom Changes:
    After your loved one begins their medicinal cannabis treatment, keep a daily or weekly journal to record any improvements or worsened or new symptoms, such as alterations in sleep quality, changes in mood, and overall comfort. By keeping these records you and your loved one’s doctor can evaluate the treatment's efficacy.

  • Make Note of Any Dosage Adjustments:
    Your doctor will typically start your loved one on a low dose of medicinal cannabis and gradually increase it if needed. See how they respond to any adjustment in dosage and monitor for changes, symptoms, or side effects.

  • Be Aware of Potential Tolerance:
    As with many other medications, some individuals may develop a tolerance to the effects after prolonged use. If you notice that there is a decrease in the efficacy of the medication over time, make an appointment with your loved one’s healthcare team for guidance on adjusting dosages or taking a tolerance break.

  • Book Follow-Up Appointments:
    It can be helpful to pre-book follow-up appointments so that you and your loved one can regularly check-in with their healthcare team and update them on your observations, seek guidance, and adjust the medication treatment plan as necessary.

    Remember: if something seems off, you don’t have to wait until your next appointment for help.

Understanding Potential Risks of Medicinal Cannabis as a Caregiver

While medicinal cannabis can offer significant benefits for many people with chronic or life-limiting conditions, as a caregiver, it’s still important to be aware of potential risks so that you can make well-informed healthcare decisions for your loved one.

  • Impaired Motor Skills: Like many sedating medications, medicinal cannabis can sometimes impair motor skills and coordination. Take precautions to prevent falls or accidents, especially in elderly people, and remind your loved one to not drive after taking medicinal cannabis.

  • Potential Addiction: While the risk of addiction to medicinal cannabis is lower than with opioids, dependency is possible. Make sure your loved one only takes medicinal cannabis only as prescribed and keep an eye out for signs of dependency.
  • Drug Interactions: Medicinal cannabis can interact with certain medications. Always check in with your loved one’s healthcare team to avoid any potentially dangerous interactions with other prescribed medications.
  • Cardiovascular Health: Medicinal cannabis use may lead to changes in heart rate and blood pressure. Caregivers should be cautious, especially if the patient has a history of heart conditions. Regular monitoring and communication with the healthcare provider are crucial.

By being proactive, well-informed, and attentive to potential risks, you can minimise the chances of adverse effects and help your loved one undergo a safer course of medicinal cannabis treatment. 

Remembering Caregiver Self-Care

Let’s take a moment to appreciate all you do as a caregiver! Caregiving is such an important and inspiring experience — but it can be emotionally and physically exhausting too.

We understand that as a caregiver, you might feel guilty about taking time for your needs.  But remember that caring for yourself doesn't mean you’re neglecting your loved one! In fact, prioritising self-care will help continue to care for your loved one without burning out.

Here are some tips for ensuring you don’t put your needs last. 

  • Set Boundaries: You don’t have to do it all. Establish clear boundaries between your caregiving responsibilities and personal life.

  • Seek Support: Whether you’re reaching out to your healthcare team, a support group, friends, or family members, connecting with others can help you manage the stress of caregiving responsibilities.
  • Maintain Your Health: When you're caring for someone who’s unwell, it can be easy to forget about your own physical health. Take regular exercise, eat a balanced diet, and make sure you’re getting enough sleep. 
  • Schedule Breaks: Even caregivers need a break! Don’t be afraid to organise caregiving breaks where another family member or friend can step in for a few days so you can unwind and come back refreshed.  

The Wrap Up

This Caregiver's Guide to Medicinal Cannabis can help you understand the ins and outs of medicinal cannabis so that you can make informed choices for your loved one’s care. Caregiving is a deeply rewarding yet challenging role that requires significant support from medical communities to ensure that caregivers have the education and resources they need to help their loved ones.

Medicinal cannabis has shown significant potential in helping with a range of physical and mental health issues — from chronic pain management to sleep improvement, anxiety reduction, and appetite stimulation. By following the step-by-step guides included above, caregivers can navigate getting their loved one started with medicinal cannabis, help monitor and adjust treatments, and be aware of any potential risks

Glossary of Medicinal Cannabis-Related Terms

Cannabinoids: These are the active chemical compounds found in cannabis plants, each with its own potential therapeutic effects. Two well-known cannabinoids are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol), both of which interact with receptors in the body's endocannabinoid system.

Endocannabinoid System (ECS): A remarkable biological system within the human body that plays a crucial role in maintaining balance (homeostasis). The ECS consists of receptors, enzymes, and endocannabinoids, and it regulates processes such as mood, appetite, sleep, pain perception, and immune response.

Terpenes: These are natural aromatic compounds found in medicinal cannabis, as well as in many other plants. Terpenes contribute to the distinct scent and flavour of different strains and may also have therapeutic properties. 

Tincture: A tincture is a liquid medicinal cannabis extract that is typically placed under the tongue (sublingually) for rapid absorption. Tinctures offer a discreet and efficient way to administer medicinal cannabis, allowing for precise dosing and control over the effects.

Edibles: Edibles are food products infused with medicinal cannabis extracts. These products provide an alternative method of consumption by ingesting medicinal cannabis, which is metabolised through the digestive system. 

Vaping: As a caregiver, one of the common methods for administering medicinal cannabis to a loved one is through a vaporizer. Vaporisation can help ensure fast onset of the active ingredients and is considered a safer option than smoking cannabis due to reduced exposure to harmful combustion byproducts. Smoking medicinal cannabis is not recommended. 

Dosing: Dosing refers to determining and administering the appropriate amount of medicinal cannabis for therapeutic purposes.

Medical Conditions

Dying to Know Day: Palliative Care and Medicinal Cannabis

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Dying to Know Day: Palliative Care and Medicinal Cannabis

Just like birth, death is a natural part of the human experience — yet it remains one of the most sensitive and least discussed topics in society. Dying to Know Day helps people start important discussions around end-of-life planning and ensures that people in the final stages of life can receive the compassionate care they deserve.

The annual event observed on the 8th of August each year in Australia, "Dying to Know Day" raises awareness about planning for death and encourages all adult Australians to be strong self-advocates for end-of-life and palliative care choices. 

When you’re thinking about palliative care planning for yourself or a loved one, it can be hard to know where to start or what medications could provide the most comfort. Medicinal cannabis has emerged as an effective complementary therapy in the field of palliative care for some patients, with ongoing scientific research showing that medicinal cannabis may help to alleviate pain, reduce discomfort, and address distressing symptoms experienced by terminally ill patients. 

So today, let’s learn more about the importance of Dying to Know Day, explore palliative care, and learn about how medicinal cannabis may help people naturally reduce their pain and improve their quality of life in their final days.

What is Dying to Know Day?

Dying to Know Day is an annual event observed on the 8th of August in Australia.

The event encourages people to start conversations about advance care planning, palliative care options, and — importantly— how to document your healthcare preferences before you think you’ll need to.

Avoiding the topic of death is fairly normal. It’s hard to imagine the end of our lives or imagine the people we love reaching the end of their lives. For many people, it’s easier to put off hard conversations and continue living in the moment. However, the fear of this natural transition can sometimes mean that our end-of-life wishes aren’t known or acted upon later.

In Australia, Death can be a very difficult subject. So much so that a recent study indicated that up to 70% of Australians don’t have a legally binding will and only 15% of the general adult community and 14% of older people have advanced care planning in place to document their healthcare decisions if they become seriously ill and unable to communicate their treatment preferences.

Through community events, workshops, and educational programs, Dying to Know Day seeks to empower individuals to make informed decisions about their healthcare, ensuring their wishes are respected. This day provides an opportunity for us to be brave and embrace the facts of death and dying, including cultural practices, spiritual beliefs, and the role of palliative care.

What is Palliative Care? 

Palliative care is a holistic approach to end-of-life healthcare that focuses on providing support, relief, and comfort to individuals with life-limiting illnesses. Unlike curative treatments that target the underlying disease, palliative care aims to improve the overall quality of life for patients and their families by addressing physical, emotional, psychosocial, and spiritual needs.

This specialised form of care is not always limited to end-of-life stages but can be provided alongside curative treatments to enhance the patient's well-being throughout the course of their illness.

Understanding what kind of palliative care you want, or want for your family is an important part of end-of-life planning. A multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses, social workers, counsellors, expert doctors, can collaborate to create personalised care plans that cater to each patient's unique needs. 

Common Palliative Care Medications

There is no one palliative care medication. Instead, a variety of medications may be prescribed to manage pain, control symptoms, and address specific medical needs. Some of the common palliative care medications that people may want to include in their end-of-life planning include:

Analgesics (Pain Medications):

  • Non-Opioid Analgesics: Non-opioid pain medications like acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen may be used for mild to moderate pain relief or in combination with opioids to enhance pain control.

  • Medicinal Cannabis: Medicinal cannabis, containing cannabinoids like THC and CBD, has shown promise in managing pain effectively. Some palliative care patients may find relief from chronic pain through the use of medicinal cannabis as a complementary or alternative option to traditional analgesics.

  • Opioids: Opioids are potent pain-relieving medications frequently used in palliative care to manage moderate to severe pain. Common opioids include morphine, fentanyl, oxycodone, and hydromorphone. They work by binding to specific receptors in the central nervous system to block pain signals.

Antiemetics (Anti-Nausea Medications):

  • Ondansetron: Ondansetron is an antiemetic (anti-nausea) medication commonly used to prevent or alleviate nausea and vomiting, particularly associated with chemotherapy or opioid use. However, it’s important to note this can cause constipation with long-term use.

  • Medicinal Cannabis: Medicinal cannabis has demonstrated antiemetic properties, making it a potential option for managing treatment-induced nausea and vomiting in palliative care patients.

  • Metoclopramide: Metoclopramide is another antiemetic that can help manage nausea and improve gastric emptying. However, this can cause akathesia (an inability to remain still) which lasts a few hours. Unfortunately, doctors cannot predict which patients will experience this common side effect until they actually take this medication.

Anxiolytics (Anxiety Medications):

  • Lorazepam: Lorazepam is a benzodiazepine used to manage anxiety, agitation, or restlessness in palliative care patients.

  • Diazepam: Diazepam is another benzodiazepine with anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) properties, often used to promote relaxation and reduce anxiety.

  • Midazolam: Midazolam is a benzodiazepine commonly used for symptom management in palliative care, such as relieving anxiety, managing seizures, or inducing sedation for comfort.

  • Medicinal Cannabis: CBD-dominant strains of medicinal cannabis have shown potential as anxiolytics, providing a sense of calm and relaxation without the psychoactive effects of THC. These strains may be considered to relieve anxiety or emotional distress in end-of-life patients.

Antidepressants and Antipsychotics:

  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs): SSRIs such as sertraline and fluoxetine may be used to manage depression and anxiety in palliative care patients.

  • Atypical Antipsychotics: Atypical (lower risk) antipsychotic medications like quetiapine can help manage agitation, delirium, or psychosis.

  • Medicinal Cannabis: While not a primary treatment for psychiatric conditions, some patients may find relief from symptoms of anxiety and depression through the use of medicinal cannabis, particularly CBD-rich strains.

Corticosteroids and inflammation management:

Laxatives and Stool Softeners:

  • Senna: Senna is a natural laxative used to treat constipation in palliative care patients.

  • Docusate Sodium: Docusate sodium is a stool softener that helps ease bowel movements and prevent constipation.

Antipyretics (Fever-Reducing Medications):

  • Acetaminophen: Acetaminophen (Paracetamol, sold as Panadol) is commonly used to reduce fever and relieve mild to moderate pain in palliative care patients.

Anticholinergics (inhibits involuntary muscle movements):

Sedatives and Hypnotics:

Remember that medication choices during palliative care are different for every person and that your or a loved one’s patient needs may change over time. Regular assessment, communication, and adjustments to medication regimens are an important part of overall palliative care management.

How Can Medicinal Cannabis Help People in Palliative Care? 

In recent years, there has been growing interest in the potential of medicinal cannabis as a complementary therapy in palliative care. Medicinal cannabis contains various cannabinoids, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), which interact with the body's endocannabinoid system to produce a range of therapeutic effects.

One potential benefit of medicinal cannabis for end-of-life care is that it is able to manage several common palliative care areas at once for some patients, these include:

  • Pain Management: Chronic pain is a common and distressing symptom experienced by people with advanced illnesses. By acting on the body's endocannabinoid receptors, medicinal cannabis may modulate pain perception and offer an alternative or complementary option for pain relief for some patients.
  • Nausea and Vomiting Relief: Nausea and vomiting, often caused by treatments such as chemotherapy, can be managed by medicinal cannabis. It has shown promise in stimulating appetite, which can be helpful for some patients experiencing reduced food intake due to their illness.
  • Anxiety and Emotional Support: Understandably, facing a life-limiting illness can trigger intense emotional distress and anxiety in both patients and their families. Incorporating medicinal cannabis into the palliative care regimen may provide emotional support to some patients during their end-of-life journey.

    It’s important to note that there is a potential for cannabis to cause or increase anxiety in some patients so it’s always important to work with an experienced doctor when exploring new treatments
  • Reduced Dependence on Opioids: In cases where palliative care patients rely on opioids for pain management, medicinal cannabis may provide increased pain relief with lower opioid doses, minimising the risk of opioid-related side effects, including nausea, vomiting, constipation, itchy skin, dizziness, dry mouth and sedation.

If you’re thinking about including medicinal cannabis into your or a loved one’s end-of-life care plans, then it’s a good idea to reach out to a knowledgeable doctor about your options and learn more about how medicinal cannabis can potentially support comfort care for the dying.

It’s also important to remember that while medicinal cannabis holds promise as a complementary therapy in palliative care, the effectiveness of medicinal cannabis may vary depending on individual factors such as the patient's specific medical condition, medical history, and tolerance levels.

Possible Risks of Medical Cannabis

When deciding on any kind of medication, it's also essential to acknowledge any possible risks. A comprehensive discussion with a caring medical professional can help you make an informed decision about whether medical cannabis is the right option for you and your health.

While medical cannabis is a natural treatment option, some potential risks of medicinal cannabis include:

  • Cognitive Effects: Depending on the compounds present and their concentrations, medical cannabis can sometimes lead to cognitive changes, including impaired memory and concentration.
  • Interactions and Side Effects: Just like any medication, medical cannabis could interact with other medications you're taking. Although side effects are fewer than with traditional medications, it’s still worth talking them over with your doctor.
  • Psychoactive Effects of THC: The psychoactive nature of THC may not be appropriate for people with certain mood disorders, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

Commonly Used Cannabinoids in Palliative Medicine 

Cannabinoids, the active compounds found in medicinal cannabis, interact with the body's endocannabinoid system in different ways to regulate various bodily functions. In palliative medicine, certain cannabinoids provide different kinds of potential therapeutic benefits for patients facing life-limiting illnesses. Some cannabinoids that could provide therapeutic benefits in palliative care include:

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC):

THC is one of the primary compounds in cannabis, commonly known for its euphoric effects (aka the ‘high’). In palliative care, THC-rich medications are often prescribed to address pain and discomfort experienced by patients.

Cannabidiol (CBD):

CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in medicinal cannabis. It can provide therapeutic effects without causing the "high" associated with THC. In palliative medicine, CBD-dominant treatments are often prescribed to address symptoms like anxiety, nausea, and inflammation.

Cannabinol (CBN):

CBN is a minor cannabinoid that’s found in aged or oxidised medicinal cannabis. While CBN is not as extensively studied as THC or CBD, some research suggests potential sedative effects that may aid in sleep and relaxation for patients experiencing insomnia or restlessness.

Delta-8-Tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta-8-THC):

Delta-8-THC is a less potent isomer of Delta-9-THC, the primary psychoactive compound in medicinal cannabis. It exhibits milder psychoactive effects and may be considered as an option for patients who are sensitive to Delta-9-THC.

Cannabigerol (CBG):

CBG is another non-psychoactive minor cannabinoid found in medicinal cannabis. While research on CBG is still in its early stages, it has shown potential anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties, which might be relevant to palliative care patients managing various symptoms.

Healthcare providers can work closely with patients and their families to find the most appropriate and effective cannabinoids to offer symptom relief and improve the overall well-being of those facing end-of-life challenges.

How to Include Medicinal Cannabis in a Palliative Care Plan

If this Dying to Know Day, you’re thinking about incorporating medicinal cannabis into your or someone you love’s palliative care plan it is essential to seek guidance from your healthcare team. Here are some steps to include medicinal cannabis in your palliative care plan:

Step 1: Talk to Your Palliative Care Team and/or Healthcare Professionals

Whether you’re looking to include medicinal cannabis into a current or future palliative care plan, talking to a knowledgeable healthcare team is the first step. Share your interest in exploring this treatment option and ask for their guidance.

Your healthcare team can help you understand the potential benefits and risks of using medicinal cannabis for your specific symptoms and medical condition. If you’re working with a specialised medicinal cannabis doctor then they can integrate their care with your, or a loved one’s, pre-existing healthcare team to ensure better patient outcomes.  

Step 2: Discuss Your Medical History and Current Symptoms

Your healthcare team will discuss your medical history and the symptoms you are experiencing. Be open about any pain, nausea, anxiety, or other issues you are facing. If you’re planning for future care, then highlight current conditions that might need further management later on (i.e., anxiety disorders).

Step 3: Consider the Best Form of Medicinal Cannabis for You

Discuss which form of medicinal cannabis (capsules, flower, oils etc.) might be the most appropriate for you based on your preferences and medical needs. Your medical team will consider factors like ease of administration and how quickly you need relief from your symptoms. Learn more about the different medicinal cannabis formats available here.

Step 4: Work Together to Find the Right Dosage

If you decide to start a course of medicinal cannabis, your specialist doctor will start you on a low dose and adjust it based on how you respond. It's important to share any changes in your symptoms or side effects so your dose can be adjusted as necessary.

The Bottom Line

Dying to Know Day serves as an annual reminder of how death is a natural and inevitable part of life — and that rather than ignore it or hide from it, there is a lot to be gained from having open discussions about the end of life and how we can plan for a comfortable departure.

Dying to Know Day empowers people to make informed decisions about their healthcare and encourages discussions about advance care planning and palliative care options for themselves or their loved ones. Palliative care is an important part of end-of-life planning. It provides a holistic approach to end-of-life healthcare and can help support a patient's physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.

For people considering medicinal cannabis to support a palliative care plan for themselves or a loved one to potentially help alleviate pain, manage symptoms like nausea and anxiety, and improve sleep quality. It’s important to involve healthcare professionals in the decision-making process so as to best support each person’s unique end-of-life needs.


Can cannabis cause nausea in palliative care?

Medicinal cannabis can cause nausea in some palliative care patients, but it can also relieve it. The effects of cannabis on nausea depend on the individual, the type and dose of cannabis medication used, and the underlying medical condition.

Some studies have found that cannabis can reduce nausea and vomiting in cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy, as such, medicinal cannabis is sometimes prescribed to alleviate these symptoms in palliative care. However, medicinal cannabis, like any medication, can have side effects, and some people may experience nausea from its use. Some people may also experience nausea when they consume high doses or specific types of medicinal cannabis.

Is cannabis an effective and safe treatment option in the management of palliative care pain?

The use of medicinal cannabis in managing palliative care pain is an area of ongoing research with evidence showing its potential benefits in end-of-life pain management for some patients.

However, it's important to note that individual responses to medical cannabis treatments can vary and as with all medication, there are potential risks to be aware of. It’s best to consult with a qualified medicinal cannabis doctor for a full assessment of your health history and goals. An experienced practitioner who is also experienced with geriatrics and palliative care can also address any safety concerns you might have related to THC's side effects and potential interactions with other medications.

Medical Conditions

National Pain Week: What Is It and Why Does it Matter?

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National Pain Week: What Is It and Why Does it Matter?

Whether you live with it or not, everyone should be aware of chronic pain. Chronic pain is a daily struggle for millions of people around the world, so if you’re not living with it, chances are someone you know or care about will be.

1 in 5 Australians over 45 years old are currently living with chronic pain — that’s over 3.6 million people! Chronic pain refers to persistent discomfort that lasts for weeks, months, or even years, and it can be caused by various medical conditions or injuries.

Unfortunately, chronic pain is not just a physical ailment — it can also take a significant toll on your emotional well-being, social life, and overall quality of life. Yet, there is still widespread misunderstanding of chronic pain, with 1 in 2 sufferers experiencing stigma because of their condition. 

The lack of validation and recognition of this challenging condition by the government, employers and the general public pushed advocates, healthcare professionals, and organisations to come together to create National Pain Week.

Running from 24-30 July in 2023, National Pain Week is an annual event that raises awareness about chronic pain, promotes better understanding, and provides support to those affected by this complex and challenging health problem. 

As National Pain Week gains momentum, so too can public awareness of new treatments for chronic pain, including medicinal cannabis which has shown to be an  effective pain management tool for some patients with less side effects than many other common analgesic medications.

For National Pain Week this year, Polln will explore the significance of National Pain Week, help our readers understand what chronic pain is and why it matters, and explain some potential treatments for chronic pain that could help millions of people across Australia.

Let’s get the conversation started.

Understanding Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is characterised by pain that lasts for an extended period, usually beyond three to six months, or beyond the time expected for the resolution of an injury or illness. Unlike acute (short-term) pain, which has a protective mechanism warning us of physical harm, chronic pain continues long after the initial cause has stopped, leading to a complex — and frustrating — medical condition that can be difficult to treat.

Chronic pain affects people of all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life. It is estimated that around 20% of Australian adults have chronic pain, making it a significant public health concern that deserves more dedicated healthcare, more research, and more public awareness.

Causes and Types of Chronic Pain 

No one issue or accident causes chronic pain. Instead, chronic pain can have various underlying causes, from old injuries to recently diagnosed health conditions. Chronic pain often results from a complex interplay of physiological, psychological, and environmental factors, meaning that when chronic pain strikes, doctors should take the time to fully investigate all possible causes in influencing factors (like stress or fatigue).

The four types of chronic pain include:

  • Musculoskeletal Pain: This type of pain originates from the muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons, and other supporting structures in the body. Conditions like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and low back pain fall under this category.
  • Neuropathic Pain: Caused by nerve damage or malfunction, neuropathic pain can be intense and debilitating. Examples include diabetic neuropathy, post-herpetic neuralgia, and sciatica.
  • Inflammatory Pain: Resulting from inflammation in the body, this type of pain is often associated with conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn's disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Mechanical Pain: Mechanical pain arises from physical pressure, stress, or damage to the musculoskeletal system. It can result from injuries, poor posture, overuse, or trauma, leading to conditions such as tendinitis, sprains, and herniated discs.

The Impact of Chronic Pain on Patients' Lives

Chronic pain is so much more than a physical problem — it can significantly impact all areas of a patient's life, including their social lives, mental health, sexual wellbeing and a patient’s overall quality of life.

Living with chronic pain can lead to a cycle of decreased mobility, limited activities, and less social interactions, which, in turn, can contribute to feelings of isolation, anxiety, and depression. Additionally, chronic pain can get in the way of productivity, affect job performance, and strain personal relationships.

The constant struggle to manage pain can prevent people from being able to fully participate in daily activities they once enjoyed — and even sleep can be affected, further worsening the toll chronic pain can take on mental health. 

Current Chronic Pain Treatments

Conventional approaches to chronic pain management often include a combination of medications, physical therapy, and psychological interventions. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), opioids, and muscle relaxants are commonly prescribed to alleviate pain, but these medications may come with side effects and the risk of dependency.

Natural treatments for chronic pain include medicinal cannabis, acupuncture, mind-body techniques, like meditation and mindfulness, and herbal supplements, such as turmeric and ginger.

Physical therapy and rehabilitation programs can also help improve function and reduce pain, while cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) can help patients develop coping strategies and improve their psychological well-being. 

Medical Cannabis and Chronic Pain

Some chronic pain patients may find relief, both in terms of their pain management and improved sleep, from medicinal cannabis treatments. Medicinal cannabis (historically known as medical weed or medical marijuana, learn more about the importance of language here), has gained significant attention in recent years for its potential therapeutic benefits in managing chronic pain.

Research has shown that medicinal cannabis can provide significant relief against chronic pain in some patients. Additionally, medicinal cannabis may be a good option for some people who have found conventional treatments to be ineffective or want to avoid side effects or the potential for opioid addiction.

One study showed that some patients who were prescribed medicinal cannabis were able to manage their chronic pain and reduce their opioid use by 64%.  Better yet, they were able to improve their overall quality of life and reduce their medication side effects. Seeing as one of the main treatments to chronic pain are opioids, medicinal cannabis provides a hopeful, natural alternative that is safer and effective for some patients.

As with any other medication, there are potential side effects associated with medicinal cannabis. Short-term side effects related to THC can sometimes include anxiety, panic, disorientation or changes to memory and attention. Patients with psychiatric illnesses, such as schizophrenia, are typically recommended not to start a course of medicinal cannabis as it may worsen condition symptoms.

If you’re experiencing chronic pain and are interested in exploring natural therapies such as medicinal cannabis, we recommend speaking to an experienced cannabis clinician who can help you to find a treatment that works for you.

National Pain Week: Shining a Spotlight on a Global Issue

National Pain Week started as an annual event with a mission to raise awareness about the prevalence and impact of chronic pain on individuals worldwide. This initiative was created by the collective efforts of patient advocacy groups, healthcare professionals, and organisations dedicated to supporting those living with chronic pain conditions.

Why does National Pain Week matter? Because by taking the time to recognise chronic pain, we can foster greater understanding and empathy, and destigmatize this challenging condition for chronic pain sufferers worldwide.

The goals of National Pain Week include: 

  • Raising Awareness: National Pain Week strives to increase public awareness about chronic pain's prevalence, impact, and potential treatment options. Through educational campaigns, media outreach, and community events, the initiative seeks to foster empathy and understanding among the general public and policymakers.
  • Empowering Patients: Empowerment is a key focus of National Pain Week, encouraging individuals living with chronic pain to take an active role in their pain management journey. By providing access to reliable information and resources, the event aims to equip patients with the tools they need to make informed decisions about their health and well-being.
  • Advocating for Improved Care: National Pain Week advocates for better support and care for chronic pain patients. It calls for increased research funding, improved access to innovative treatments, and the development of evidence-based guidelines to enhance pain management strategies.

How to Get Involved in National Pain Week

During National Pain Week, keep an eye out for various events and campaigns organised by local communities, healthcare providers, and advocacy groups. If you want to get involved, try get in touch with:

  • Your Local Pain Patient Support Groups: Local and online support groups provide a safe space for chronic pain patients to share experiences, exchange coping strategies, and find emotional support. Often they will have additional activities and events to show their support for National Pain Week. 
  • Contact an Advocacy Group: National Pain Week serves as a platform for patient advocates groups to lobby for policy changes and greater recognition of chronic pain as a significant public health concern. Chronic Pain Australia and Pain Australia create programs every year for patients and healthcare professionals to take part in.
  • Share Your Experiences and Knowledge: You don’t have to be part of an official group to take part in National Pain Week! This week is all about raising awareness however you can: share a post on your social media, talk to your friends and family about chronic pain, or share an informative article to your circle of friends. Every conversation counts. 

The Wrap Up

National Pain Week is an important event in our annual calendar, shedding light on the global issue of chronic pain and its profound impact on millions of individuals worldwide. By bringing together patient advocacy groups, healthcare professionals, and organisations, it  strives to raise awareness, promote understanding, and empower those affected by chronic pain.

This National Pain Week, think about your own ability to foster empathy and support for chronic pain sufferers while also advocating for improved care, research funding, and access to innovative treatments.

As we come together to rethink chronic pain, let’s also explore more options for ongoing pain management, and enhancing the quality of life without extensive side-effects. Whether you’re directly affected by chronic pain or not, your involvement in National Pain Week can make a big difference. Every conversation and act of support contributes to the greater understanding and compassion needed for individuals battling chronic pain every day.

Make a difference — share this article or talk to someone about chronic pain today.

A Note From Dr Melissa Catanzarite, MBBS

Living with chronic pain can be an incredibly challenging experience, both physically and emotionally. Chronic pain is more than just a physical ailment; it is often an invisible illness that impacts everything from your physical health, to your emotional wellbeing and your ability to be present in your day to day life. The constant discomfort, fatigue, and limitations it imposes can lead to feelings of frustration, helplessness, and even isolation.

The connection between chronic pain and mental health is complex. Chronic pain can exacerbate existing mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, or it can be a trigger for the development of these conditions in previously healthy people. The perpetual stress and emotional toll of dealing with pain can lead to emotional instability, difficulty concentrating, and a reduced sense of pleasure or purpose in daily life.

As you navigate your diagnosis and journey, please remember that seeking support is crucial. Reaching out to others who understand your struggles can make a significant difference. Sharing your feelings and experiences can help in alleviating feelings of isolation and help foster an overall sense of belonging. Engaging in hobbies and activities that bring you joy and a sense of purpose can also be beneficial in enhancing your mental health, even if they are done a bit slower than before.

Most importantly, practising self-compassion is vital. Living with chronic pain can feel defeating and may lead to feelings of guilt or self-blame. Remember that you are doing the best you can, you can only take things one step at a time. This is your journey and you cannot compare yourself to anyone else, they are on their own timeline. Be kind to yourself, acknowledge your accomplishments, no matter how small, and celebrate your resilience in the face of adversity.

Take care of yourself and remember that healing takes time. There is hope for better days ahead.

Patient Education

Does Medicinal Cannabis Help You Sleep?

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Does Medicinal Cannabis Help You Sleep?

Getting the right amount of sleep is crucial for good health and wellbeing, with poor quality sleep being associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, mental health conditions, obesity, and death1.

Despite this, over half of Australians report experiencing sleep difficulties2– including having trouble falling asleep and staying asleep as well as waking up too early and not being able to get back to sleep – three or more times a week. And nearly half of all Australian adults report regularly experiencing at least 2 sleep-related problems1

These sleep problems can include:

  • Short sleep: getting less sleep than recommended for your age group;
  • Long sleep: sleeping longer than recommended for your age group;
  • Poor sleep quality, which includes taking too long to fall asleep, waking frequently or for long periods, and poor sleep efficiency;
  • Doctor-diagnosed sleep disorders, such as insomnia, restless leg syndrome, or obstructive sleep apnoea

It’s no wonder, then, that patients in Australia are seeking therapeutic and other solutions for their sleep difficulties.

Medicinal cannabis is just one of a number of treatments that are prescribed to treat the symptoms of other sleep disorders like insomnia, restless leg syndrome and more. Let's explore the current research behind medicinal cannabis and sleep

How does medicinal cannabis affect sleep?

Cannabis has been used in numerous cultures for its potential healing properties throughout human history, with the first documented case of its use dating back to 2800 BC3.

Since then, therapeutic indications of cannabis have been mentioned in the texts of the Indian Hindus, Assyrians, Greeks and Romans. All of which report cannabis to relieve pain and treat a vast array of different health problems: including arthritis, depression, amenorrhea, inflammation, lack of appetite, asthma and insomnia.

Today, medicinal cannabis is prescribed to treat a range of chronic health conditions in Australia, the most common being mental health, chronic pain, and sleep conditions4. Some of the sleep conditions medicinal cannabis has been prescribed to treat include:

  • Insomnia
  • Circadian rhythm disorder
  • Sleep movement disorder
  • Parasomnia
  • Sleep breathing disorder

Medicinal cannabis may also be prescribed to treat sleep issues caused by other chronic conditions, such as chronic pain, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, multiple sclerosis and more. For example, studies have found that medicinal cannabis may have a positive effect on maintaining sleep throughout the night in some chronic pain patients5.

Of the more than 100 phytocannabinoids naturally found within cannabis, THC is most commonly used and prescribed for its ability to induce sleep. This is because THC works directly with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for regulating numerous bodily functions, including sleep. THC binds directly with the CB1 receptors in the central nervous system, which can yield an effect on sleep, relaxation, and more6

Cannabinol, or CBN, is a less well-known cannabinoid which appears to have powerful sedative effects7, which may be enhanced when it’s combined with THC. A number of cannabis terpenes – including caryophyllene, myrcene, linalool, pinene and terpinolene – are also known to have sedating and stress-relieving effects which aid sleep.

The right combination of cannabinoids, terpenes and other cannabis compounds in a strain or type of medicinal cannabis treatment can have a synergistically powerful effect on sleep and other symptoms. This is known as the entourage effect.

In a 2022 study of patients taking medicinal cannabis to improve sleep quality in Canada, it was found that 39% of patients were able to reduce or completely discontinue a prescription medication indicated for sleep, while 71% reported a subjective improvement in their sleep or related condition6

Does medicinal cannabis affect REM sleep? 

When it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, the amount of hours you are getting makes up only one part of the equation.

Over the course of the night, your entire sleep is made up of several rounds of what is known as the sleep cycle, which has four stages8. On a typical night, a person goes through four to six sleep cycles, which last for approximately 90 minutes each. 

The four sleep stages in a sleep cycle include:

Stage 1 (N1)

When you first fall asleep and the body has not fully relaxed. Your body and brain activities start to slow with periods of brief movements. Stage 1 sleep normally lasts just one to seven minutes.

Stage 2 (N2)

When your body enters a more relaxed state, characterised by a drop in temperature, relaxed muscles, slowed breathing and slowed heart rate. Stage 2 sleep can last for 10 to 25 minutes during the first sleep cycle, and each N2 stage can become longer during the night. 

Stage 3 (N3, slow-wave, delta or deep sleep)

When your heart rate, breathing rate and body relaxes even further, and your brain produces delta waves. Stage 3 sleep is critical for bodily recovery and growth, as well as immunity and other key bodily functions. You spend the most time in deep sleep during the first half of the night.

Stage 4 (REM sleep)

When your brain activity picks up, nearing levels seen when you are awake. At the same time, your body experiences a temporary paralysis of the muscles, with two exceptions: the eyes and the muscles that control breathing. Even though the eyes are closed, they can be seen moving quickly.

It is believed to be essential to cognitive functions like memory, and it is during this stage that we experience vivid dreams. In total, REM stages make up around 25% of sleep in adults. According to Dr. Melissa Catanzarite (MBBS) ‘REM also preserves memories, which is why a reduction in REM sleep for an extended period of time is associated with early onset cognitive decline, dementia and more. Good sleep now is an investment into the future you.’

Studies have shown that at lower doses, THC can reduce sleep onset latency and contribute to greater ease of falling asleep, increased deep or slow-wave sleep and increased total sleep time. At higher doses, THC-predominant cannabis may cause a reduction in total rapid eye movement sleep and REM density.

The extent to which cannabis affects REM sleep therefore depends on the dose and frequency of cannabis consumption, as well as the amount of THC being consumed. 

In one 2008 study, cannabis strains with higher levels of THC were found to suppress the amount of REM sleep participants were getting9. Because it is vital for healthy cognitive and immune functioning, it’s important to consider this effect before taking any cannabinoid treatments for sleep, particularly those high in THC.

A reduction in REM sleep may be beneficial in the short term for patients who would benefit from more time spent in the deep, restorative sleep stage, or for patients who experience PTSD-induced nightmares. More research is needed to understand how cannabis affects sleep cycles over time.

Medicinal cannabis and sleep disorders: 

Sleep disorders are among the three most common types of conditions4 medicinal cannabis is prescribed to treat in Australia, alongside chronic pain and mental health conditions. Here are some of the conditions medicinal cannabis may be effective at treating:

Medicinal cannabis and insomnia

Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterised by an inability to fall asleep or stay asleep. Insomnia is by far the most common sleep disorder that medicinal cannabis is prescribed to treat in Australia4

Medicinal cannabis has been found to be well tolerated and to improve insomnia symptoms and sleep quality in individuals with chronic insomnia symptoms9. Medical cannabis treatments for insomnia may also assist patients in discontinuing prescription medications indicated for sleep6. This may appeal to patients experiencing strong or unwanted side effects – such as dizziness, prolonged drowsiness, headaches and more – from their conventional prescription sleeping pills. 

Medicinal cannabis and restless leg syndrome

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a chronic disorder characterised by an urge to move the legs. This urge is often accompanied by pain or other uncomfortable and unpleasant sensations. RLS may occur or worsen during rest, particularly at night, and temporarily improves with activity. RLS is considered both a sleep disorder and a movement disorder, because the symptoms are triggered by resting and attempting to sleep.

Because RLS is caused by an excessive release of dopamine, medicinal cannabis may be an effective treatment thanks to its capacity to reduce dopamine synthesis in the body, helping to restore the activity in the basal ganglia to normal levels. The basal ganglia is a part of the brain that uses dopamine to help control muscle activity and movement.

While further medical research and clinical trials are needed, there have been promising patient reports of ‘remarkable and total remission of RLS symptoms' following medical cannabis treatment10.

Medicinal cannabis and narcolepsy 

Narcolepsy is a long-term neurological disorder that involves a decreased ability to regulate sleep–wake cycles. A person with narcolepsy experiences overwhelming daytime drowsiness and, in severe cases, falls asleep involuntarily several times every day.

While there are no clinical studies of medicinal cannabis for the treatment of narcolepsy and related conditions like idiopathic hypersomnia, studies in animals11 suggest they may offer a potential treatment option.

Excessive drowsiness has been shown to be reduced following CBD administration in rats with narcoleptic symptoms, while REM sleep has been shown to be reduced following THC use. This effect is similar to the effect of sodium oxybate, an effective treatment for type 1 narcolepsy. It’s possible then that the combined REM-suppressing effect of THC and the wake-promoting effect of CBD could be harnessed to treat patients with narcolepsy, but more research is needed in this area.

While medicinal cannabis that has been prescribed by a qualified health professional is known to be generally well tolerated at recommended dosages, medical cannabis does not work for everyone and can cause unwanted side effects in some patients. Always follow your doctor’s guidance when using cannabis to treat the symptoms of a sleep disorder or any other condition.

What type of medicinal cannabis is prescribed to treat sleep disorders?

Medicinal cannabis is a highly personalised treatment. What works best for you may differ from what works for another patient, even if you share the same condition. When deciding on an appropriate medicinal cannabis treatment to prescribe for sleep disturbances, like insomnia, your doctor will consider:

One 2015 study of cannabis for pain relief and sleep found that cannabis strains with equal ratios of THC to CBD had the most positive effect on sleep12. This is partly because CBD may be able to mitigate some of the negative effects associated with higher THC formulations, such as anxiety. Medicinal cannabis treatments with sleep-inducing terpenes, such as linalool, myrcene, and caryophyllene, may also be prescribed to promote good sleep hygiene and assist with difficulty sleeping.

The type of medical cannabis prescribed and the method required to take it will depend on your individual needs as a patient. If you have trouble falling asleep, a fast-acting method – such as inhalation – may be beneficial.

If you have trouble staying asleep, a longer-lasting medicinal cannabis treatment, such as an oil, wafer or tincture, may work best for you. For some patients, a combination of both may work best.

Which medical cannabis strain is best for inducing sleep? 

Although indica-dominant strains have historically been associated with relaxing, sedating effects, today’s research suggests that the cannabinoid ratio (i.e. the ratio of THC to CBD) and terpene content has a greater influence on its effects on the user or patient. That’s why it’s always best to explore medical cannabis treatments with an experienced cannabis clinician who can prescribe treatments based on your individual needs.

Learn more about cannabis strains and their relevance today here.

Potential risks and side effects of using medicinal cannabis as a sleeping aid 

Like any medication, medical cannabis can come with its own risks and side effects which will vary depending on the type and amount of treatment, and individual factors like tolerance, endocannabinoid system function and sensitivity. 

Some of the potential risks and side effects associated with using medical cannabis as a sleep aid include:

  • High doses of THC may impact the sleep cycle by suppressing REM sleep
  • High doses of THC or consuming too late in the night can also lead to feeling groggy or tired the next day
  • While THC has the potential to reduce anxiety symptoms, THC may also cause or increase anxiety when taken at too high a dose in some patients

When it comes to starting any medical cannabis treatment, finding the right dosing and titration is key to maximising therapeutic benefit without unwanted side effects.

To mitigate the potential risk and side effects of medicinal cannabis treatments for sleep, it’s important to consult with an experienced cannabis clinician who can help you find a treatment plan that works for you.

How to access medicinal cannabis in Australia

To access medicinal cannabis in Australia, you need to speak with an expert doctor who understands the intricacies of medical cannabis treatments. According to the TGA, to be eligible for medicinal cannabis treatments, you must have:

  1.  A chronic medical condition (that means a condition that has lasted 3 months
  2. Tried to treat this chronic condition with conventional treatments that have either failed to relieve your symptoms or have caused unwanted side effects. 

When it comes to sleep disorders, conventional treatments may include any combination of pharmacological, lifestyle, herbal or other treatments that are commonly used to treat sleep issues. So, if you have had chronic sleep issues for 3 months or more and you are not satisfied with your current or past treatments, you may be eligible for medicinal cannabis access.

Specialised medicinal cannabis clinics can pair you with an expert Cannabis Clinician to review your condition and health goals to see if medicinal cannabis is right for you. 

Learn more about medicinal cannabis access in Australia.

From the Doctor: Dr Melissa Catanzarite, MBBS

Sleep is the single most significant component of our self care. Sleep is the real miracle drug; it promotes healing, emotional stability and even weight loss. Without sleep we struggle to have meaningful interactions with those we love, our creativity is dampened or ceases altogether and we are at more risk for significant health disorders.

Bedtime is the most crucial part of your day and needs to be managed as such. This includes creating a regular bedtime routine that incorporates no screen time for a minimum of one hour prior to bed, going to bed and waking at the same time every day and ensuring there are no distractions while you sleep.

A person can take all of the medications, supplements and yoga classes in the world and their health will not improve until they prioritise sleep.

Medical Conditions

Medicinal Cannabis and Anxiety, explained

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Medicinal Cannabis and 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.
Source: HealthyWA, Department of Health

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.

The Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Psychiatrists recommends cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) as the first line treatment for generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder and social anxiety disorder.14 Research shows that CBT is one of the most effective treatments for anxiety, and for preventing future anxiety.15 CBT treatment involves implementing strategies to change unhelpful thinking patterns and behaviours. It is generally conducted by a trained therapist over 6 sessions or more, and may be used alongside other therapy types, such as exposure therapy or interpersonal therapy.

Pharmacological treatments like antidepressants and tranquillisers are also 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. Learn more about your endocannabinoid system.

Does CBD help with anxiety?

CBD and CBD oil treatments may 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.”

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

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.

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. We recommend seeking support from professionals who are experts in medicinal cannabis and 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, we recommend speaking to a doctor who specialises in the prescription of medicinal cannabis.

Mental health conditions like anxiety can be complex diagnostically and therapeutically. Seeking advice from psychiatrists and psychologists can be extremely helpful for identifying the underlying source of the anxiety and ensuring appropriate evidenced based treatments have been considered.   

Medical Conditions

Endometriosis and Medicinal Cannabis: Frequently Asked Questions

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Endometriosis and 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 may be an effective treatment for some 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 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 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 may have therapeutic benefits in the treatment of endometriosis for some patients. 

Medicinal cannabis treatments are known to have anti-inflammatory properties and studies have shown it may be beneficial in treating chronic pain,5 anxiety6 and depression7 in some patients. Inflammation, chronic pain and associated comorbidities like mental health issues, anxiety and depression are all symptoms experienced by many living with endometriosis, so medical cannabis may be a viable treatment option for these symptoms in some patients.

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 medical cannabis treatment from one or more of these categories in the format of an oil, flower, or other delivery format.

CBD and CBD oils are known to have anti-inflammatory and mild analgesic properties, which makes them potentially 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 some potential therapeutic benefits in treating pain for some patients. 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.

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.

Some 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 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 may 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, reach out to a doctor who specialises in the prescription of medicinal cannabis to discuss whether these treatments 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. This 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 natural therapies to treat a specific medical condition like endometriosis, it’s important to know exactly which cannabinoids are present within your treatment, 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.

If you’re unsure whether your current doctor can help you access medicinal cannabis, we recommend booking a consultation with a healthcare practitioner who specialises in these treatments to discuss whether they may be right for you.

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Medical Conditions

What is Chronic Pain & How Can Medical Cannabis Potentially Help?

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What is Chronic Pain & How Can Medical Cannabis Potentially Help?

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:


  • 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)


  • 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. We recommend speaking to an expert 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, we recommend reaching out to your doctor to discuss your options.

The information on this website is provided for educational and informational purposes only and not intended for use as medical advice. Polln is not promoting the use of medicinal cannabis. Medicinal cannabis in Australia is scheduled medication and regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Details about medicinal cannabis as a scheduled drug can be found on their website. If you would like to explore medicinal cannabis for your chronic condition, please consult with a doctor.