While medicinal cannabis has been available legally in Australia for some time, the latest CAMS survey found the majority of patients were still using illicit sources.
The results from the Cannabis As Medicine Survey (CAMS:18), conducted by researchers at the University of Sydney between September 2018 and March 2019* with 1388 Australians, found just 2.7 per cent were accessing legal products.
The most common conditions cannabis was being used for medicinally included pain, mental health issues (mainly anxiety and depression) and sleep problems.
Some of the blocks to obtaining a prescription for legal products noted were the cost of products, issues with finding a doctor willing to prescribe and a perception the person’s usual doctor was disinterested in investigating medicinal cannabis as a potential treatment option.
“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,” said CAMS:18 report co-author and academic director of the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics, Professor Iain McGregor.
Professor McGregor says Australians sourcing medicinal cannabis through illicit channels risk hazards associated with quality control as well as legal risks. However, the study noted those who had pursued sourcing products via illicit channels reported quite positive experiences – as did the few people who reported accessing legally prescribed medical cannabis products.
Professor McGregor says Australia needs to accelerate change in relation to medical cannabis, including allowing for over-the-counter access to cannabidiol (which is hopefully on the horizon) and provide more guidance for doctors and specialists in this area. Concerning the latter, better quality evidence around medicinal cannabis effectiveness is also critical.
Another point of interest in the survey report is how cannabis was being used since the last survey. The researchers noted a move away from smokeable products such as joints to non-smokeable cannabis including oral products.
More from the CAMS:18 survey can be found here.
* Given the pace of change in relation to medicinal cannabis, it’s not clear why the results from the CAMS:18 survey have taken so long to be published, but it was a similar situation with the CAMS:16 survey.