Currently, there is no predetermined list of conditions and/or afflictions for which medical Cannabis or Cannabis-based medicines can be prescribed in Australia. However the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) states that it can be prescribed for conditions such as those listed below.
Further, the TGA does not in any way vouch for any quality, safety and effectiveness of unapproved medical Cannabis products.
Be reminded though that access to medical Cannabis in Australia is far from being simple. It’s not as easy as visiting your doctor, GP, or clinician, citing your medical condition and expecting to be given a medical Cannabis prescription on the spot.
For now, let’s look into what afflictions medical Cannabis may be of help to you if by any chance you have any of the conditions listed here.
1. Chronic Pain
Majority of patients who seek medical Cannabis do so mainly for pain management. The growth in the number of interests and expectations around its use is an indication in itself considering that it can also treat a range of conditions where pain is a dominant feature of the said condition.
Despite the legalisation and decriminalisation of medical Cannabis in Australia and overseas, there is still a need for well-designed studies and its role in management of complex chronic pain especially in the case of neuropathic pain.
2. Nausea and Vomiting
Nausea and Vomiting were the first instances where medical Cannabis was accepted and integrated into medical practice. This was mainly driven by cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
These treatments often cause severe nausea and vomiting as a result of their medications. Patients have found relief when prescribed medical Cannabis.
Medical Cannabis and/or synthetic cannabinoids are believed to act on the vomiting reflex in the brain. Also, it has an impact on the rush of hormones that trigger or relaxes the sensation of nausea.
The main cannabinoid associated with easing nausea and vomiting is THC and it also promotes appetite for patients. Despite this, it may be more beneficial for Cannabis formulations to work and provide greater relief when taken with other cannabinoids including CBD in what is called an Entourage Effect. This means that cannabinoids can work together and provide greater effect than they would alone.
3. Muscle Spasms
Many people with spinal cord injuries declare they do suffer with muscle spasticity and pain constantly. And we are not talking about your common paper cut or kitchen burn pain.
While muscle cramps and involuntary twitches are experienced by people and may be a source of great discomfort for people not afflicted with chronic neuromuscular diseases, the same physiological reactions to medical Cannabis may provide relief from common muscle spasms.
Much of what is known about medical Cannabis’ potential to relieve muscle spasms comes from multiple sclerosis (MS) research. It stems from results citing medical cannabis use being recognised as an accepted and effective treatment option for conditions such as MS based on its documented ability to reduce inflammation responses that trigger muscle spasms.
4. Sleep Disorders
Medical use of cannabinoids for sleep regulation has been growing and continuous evaluation, though small, using Cannabis extracts, both for THC and CBD analogues, showed positive impacts on sleep.
Presently, there are a number of clinical trials that are focused on associated sleep disorders including insomnia in Australia. Additionally, observational studies are underway which aims to collect information from patients taking prescribed medical Cannabis for the management of sleep problems.
Point blank, we have to state that medical Cannabis can’t cure arthritis or even slow the progression of the disease, some people do report that it helps them alleviate their symptoms. We also have to state that self-medicating with recreational Cannabis is deemed not safe nor can it be a substitute for supervised care by a licensed medical professional.
That said, industry reports show that people with arthritis are among the top buyers of CBD products, noting that pain is the primary reason for their purchase.
Another reason patients opted to try medical Cannabis is that their symptoms are not being alleviated by other treatments and that because CBD is by far a non-addictive option than opiates.
It is worth noting that there are more than 100 known types of arthritis. While pain is the prime feature in all of them, they are not all alike. What works for one, may not work for another. Additionally, individuals do experience pain yet respond to treatment in various ways.
Australian medical Cannabis trials and research from around the world has shown potential in treating various conditions including anxiety. Anxiety disorders are a common group of mental health issues that can lead to difficulty in carrying out daily tasks, have a detrimental impact on social interactions, and can even impact work and employment. The condition can lead to depression if left untreated.
Treatment for this condition generally involves anxiety management, behavioral therapy, relaxation techniques and medications. The drawback in using medications such as benzodiazepines provide their own set of issues such as: sedation or even addiction.
We are still in the early days in terms of research to be able to conclude with certainty that medical Cannabis is beneficial for all types of anxiety disorder. Be that as it may, cannabidiol (CBD) has shown great promise, especially in social anxiety disorder. Medical Cannabis was found to have similar benefits to standard medications without the sedation.
There are a number of people who have experienced migraines before the age of 35. While migraines usually start at ages 30 to 40, some develop an affliction in their teenage years.
Note that there is a difference between a simple headache and a migraine. The determination is a necessary first step to reduce symptoms and find proper relief. There are instances that headaches can trigger migraines as time goes on when over the counter medications simply do not work anymore.
There are limited studies that affirm the effectiveness of medical Cannabis in treating migraines. CBD oil also comes in inhaled and edible forms. Regardless of what form you take, whether they be in supplements, oil, gummies or other edibles, can help you get migraine relief.
The Big “C” as it is also called, cancer perhaps is one of the major ailments most people are wary about. Cancer is also of significant concern not only for patients but their doctors as well, especially for those in the advanced stages of the disease and for those who are responding poorly to conventional treatments.
There is increasing interest, both internationally and in Australia, in the opportunities in using medical Cannabis in cancer care. What is of interest is the relief of side effects of conventional cancer treatment usually from chemotherapy. Evidence suggests that medical Cannabis provides relief for chemotherapy and radiotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.
Additionally, medical Cannabis appeared to be effective for patients with neuropathic pain when using nabiximols sprays. Nabiximols contains a standardized extract of THC and CBD including other minor cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids.
Lastly, there are studies that assessed changes in appetite and reported loss of weight among cancer patients. THC medical Cannabis products have shown significant stimulation of appetite and promoting weight gain.
9. Epilepsy and Seizures
In 2013, the story of Charlotte Figi, who was suffering from Dravet syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy went viral. Charlotte’s success story in using high CBD from a hemp-based formulation, went from her suffering 300 grand-mal seizures weekly to only 2-3 per month.
There are others such as Billy Caldwell of the UK, Ava Barry and Leni Young. Their stories sparked a compassionate streak among researchers and legislators alike that instigated special access opportunities and the reclassification of Cannabis regulations in a number of countries.
Epilepsy is one of the few indications that the Australian government provides specific guidance for, in relation to treating epilepsy with medical Cannabis. So far, Epidyolex is the only cannabidiol product that has been approved by the TGA for the treatment of seizures associated with Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS) in patients two years of age and older.
Epidyolex (Epidiolex in the U.S. and other territories) in a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that the addition of CBD to traditional seizure medications significantly decreased the frequency of drop seizures in children and adults with LGS.
10. Parkinson’s Disease
Medical Cannabis as we already know has both anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory actions. This may have positive effects on the brain and can potentially slow the progression of the neurodegenerative disease.
Cannabinoids, specifically THC have been shown to influence systems responsible for Parkinson’s by contributing to the release of dopamine. The effects of Parkinson’s reduces emotional and sensory capacity due to inflammation and oxidation which medical Cannabis may be able to curb.
Another phytochemical present in medical Cannabis is terpenes which is beneficial for their pain-relieving and muscle relaxant actions. Our brains contain high concentrations of cannabinoid receptors and part of the endocannabinoid system essential to innumerable processes of the body.
Through the use of medical Cannabis, the cannabinoid receptors in the endocannabinoid system are engaged which leads for patients to find relief from cognitive changes, balance, tremor and pain.
11. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
While many people would associate Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) exists only among the veteran community, however, PTSD can also afflict all sorts of people exposed to traumatic and life threatening situations.
Though still in its infancy, medical Cannabis has been accepted as a viable treatment for PTSD. This mental health condition affects millions of Australians where a research shows that about 12% of the Australian population develop PTSD during their lifetime and approximately 25% of people who were in traumatic events develop the condition.
Many people with PTSD experience negative side effects from their treatment. With no relief, many isolate themselves, turn to self-medication or turn to alcohol and abuse their medication in hoping for relief.
In the past decade, a number of research has been done on medical Cannabis and PTSD, and so far, results have shown great promise. Individuals with PTSD have shared how Cannabis has helped them with some symptoms of PTSD.
Comorbidities of PTSD such as insomnia, depression, and anxiety also benefit from medical Cannabis.
Individuals with Adult attention/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) find it hard to focus on tasks on hand. They also have problems with cognitive performance and concentration.
It is also one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders affecting 1 in 20 children and 11% of the world’s population. Often, adults with ADHD are unaware they have it, they do however, experience doing tasks more challenging.
Traditional treatment for ADHD medication are stimulants such as D-amphetamine and methylphenidate. The interest in alternative plant based medicines for the treatment of ADHD due to the short and long-term side effects of these medications.
Medical Cannabis like many other afflictions shows promise in promoting focus and it is also considered a safe alternative to traditional stimulants. Accordingly, the properties of Cannabis sativa and Cannabis ruderalis are comparatively remarkable to amphetamine treatments. What makes it more palatable as a treatment option is that CBD has no noticeable psychoactive effects, thus making it perfect for use in treatment.
13. Multiple Sclerosis
Though there is still limited evidence that medical Cannabis can have an effect on the course of the disease itself, it can still be useful to treat some of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS) in some people.
Muscle spasticity is commonly experienced with MS and with common treatments can be ineffective and can have unwanted side effects. One review found that overall spasticity improved with medical Cannabis treatment.
We already discussed how medical Cannabis is also beneficial with neuropathic pain brought about by other ailments. Several human trials and reviews of the research in this area have shown that medical Cannabis can reduce neuropathic pain in people with MS.
14. Alzheimer’s Disease
Being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s can be a challenging enterprise both for patients and their family. It is the most common cause of dementia and is also a leading cause of disability and poor health as the disease progresses over time. The common early symptom is trouble remembering” and as the disease progresses, symptoms become more severe including confusion, behavioral changes, and disorientation.
Current medications cannot stop damage that it can cause to brain cells. While research on the subject is still sparse, there have been promising results in Australia, the UK, South Korea, Spain, and Israel on the use of medical Cannabis for Alzheimer’s disease.
A study shows that cannabinoids provided improvement in behavioral and cognitive dysfunctions. It also said that by targeting the endocannabinoid system, it can be a promising strategy to develop an effective therapy for the management of Alzheimer’s disease. Further, cannabinoids may demonstrate a safe and reliable low-cost therapy, with limited side effects.
15. Mending Bones
Cannabidiol has been found to quicken the process in healing broken bones according to a study by the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. During the process of healing, it is also found to strengthen the bones making it tougher for the bone to break in the future.
16. Wasting Syndrome (Cachexia)
Wasting syndrome or Cachexia is characterized by the loss of body mass that is usually associated with various underlying conditions such as, but not limited to HIV, cancer, tuberculosis, autoimmune conditions.
Patients with cachexia experience an increase in metabolism accompanied with severe lack of appetite. Patients struggle in obtaining necessary essential nutrients leading to symptoms of fatigue, depression and decreased quality of life.
The effects of Cannabis in stimulating appetite may be one of its well-known consequences. THC-only formulations have little variation in efficacy, however, smoked medicinal Cannabis has shown patients to have increased appetite and their quality of life improved.
17. Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that currently affects over 80,000 Australians and is projected to rise to about 100,000 by 2022. The debilitating disease affects various parts of the digestive tract, causing inflammation in the bowel wall and layers of the gastrointestinal tract. The disease often leads to other complications if left untreated and in its extreme may even lead to colon cancer.
While there is still no cure for Crohn’s disease, its symptoms can be reduced considerably with the right treatment option that includes anti-inflammatory drugs, immune system suppressors, and antibiotics. Sadly, conventional treatments do not always work.
Crohn’s disease is a painful condition. This is the reason why many patients turn to alternative treatments, including medical Cannabis to relieve their symptoms and make them less severe.
Medical Cannabis helps alleviate pain due to its analgesic effects. This in turn can successfully replace pain relief medications. Medical Cannabis can also help the body fight inflammation that comes with the disease.
18. Lessen side effects of Hepatitis C treatments
Hepatitis C treatments have its share of side effects ranging from depression, fatigue, muscle pains, nausea, and loss of appetite lasting for months.
Cannabis also helps improve the treatment’s effectiveness. Patients smoking medical Cannabis were successful in getting their viral levels low, and kept them low, compared to those who did not.
Fibromyalgia is a centuries old disease. Understanding of the disease has been transforming over time and is still evolving. It is a condition that causes pain all over the body accompanied by fatigue, sleep problems, and often also suffer from emotional and mental distress.
Treatment of fibromyalgia doesn’t directly treat the disease. What doctors do is treat its symptoms as mentioned above. A 2018 study showed improvement in their symptoms from Cannabis use and more than half of the participants ceased taking other medications.
In another study in 2011, fibromyalgia sufferers showed that approximately 86% of participants reported mild to strong relief from pain attributed to the use of medical Cannabis.
20. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
In a survey conducted by the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics said that a quarter of Australians with inflammatory bowel disease report that medical Cannabis eased their symptoms.
The condition can be hard to manage with conventional treatment options, which is the reason why patients are turning to medical Cannabis for relief.
The use of Medical Cannabis is still considered in its infancy stage after legalisation in Australia and the rest of the world. Though it has been proven to have been used for millennia, we are just rediscovering how it can help alleviate modern day afflictions. However, we must state that it is still not recommended to be used in lieu of established modern treatment options.
If you so choose to seek other options or find solutions that can work with your current medications, seek the advice of your doctor, GP, or clinician first to ensure your health safety. To know more about how medical Cannabis may be able to help you, check our patients page for more information.