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Medicinal cannabis has been available on prescription since 2016. All images: Istock
The results from the Cannabis As Medicine Survey (CAMS:18), conducted by staff at the Discipline of Addiction Medicine in conjunction with the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics at the University of Sydney, provide insight into how Australians are using cannabis as medicine.
The results of the previous Cannabis As Medicine Survey (CAMS:16), the biggest national survey of medicinal cannabis users in Australia in more than a decade, provided a snapshot of people self-medicating before any medicinal cannabis use was legalised.
The aim of the two-year follow-up survey was to monitor changes in how Australians were accessing and using medical cannabis following its legalisation in 2016. The survey of 1388 Australians was conducted between September 2018 and March 2019.
Lead author and addiction medicine specialist Professor Nicholas Lintzeris said: “There continues to be considerable demand for medical cannabis in Australia that has not been completely met by available models of prescription by medical practitioners. The uncertainties experienced by people in the community around the cannabis products they are accessing illegally is a concern.
“However, the few people who report accessing legally prescribed medical cannabis products did have favourable reports, suggesting there is a path forward. I think it is still early days for the Australian medicinal cannabis system.”
Co-author and academic director of the Lambert Initiative Professor Iain McGregor said: “This is an important snapshot into the reality of medicinal cannabis access in the Australian community. There are clearly many Australians with serious medical conditions who are yet to gain official access to medicinal cannabis products, even though they would like such access. These users continue to risk hazards associated with non-standardised cannabis products of unknown origin as well as a possible criminal conviction as a result of their current patterns of self-medication.
“We need to accelerate the pace of change through innovations such as over-the-counter access to CBD (cannabidiol, the chemical found in cannabis plants) products and improved education and guidance for doctors and specialists in this area. Better quality evidence around medicinal cannabis effectiveness, particularly for conditions such as insomnia and depression, is also critical.”
Declaration: This work was supported by the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics, University of Sydney