A Brief History of Cannabis Modern Cannabis Use
- Cannabis use likely predates writing in human evolution (Ben-Amar 2006; Merlin 2003).
- Cannabis is believed to have originated in Central Asia. It has spread worldwide from this region. Cannabis use as both medicine, fibre and food dates back over 10,000 years (Abel 1980; Clarke & Merlin 2013; Merlin 2003; Merlin 1972; Schultes 1970).
- Cannabis seeds have been found in Japan from circa 8000BC (Tengwen et al 2017)
- Cannabis is possibly the oldest plant cultivated by humans (Russo 2007)
- Evidence suggests that the Gravettian people used nets made of Cannabis fibre between 29,000 – 22,000 years ago (Pringle 1997)
Modern Cannabis Use
The prohibition of cannabis started at the turn of the 20th century, the main reasons for the decline in Cannabis use as medicine relates to:
- Pharmaceutical development
- Pharmaceutical instability
- Economic aspects
- Newly imposed legal restrictions (Fankhauser 2002).
The Cannabis Prohibition was introduced in the 1960’s when The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs was released in 1961 (Mead 2014)
It maintained prior conditions established in previous conventions and provided control systems for the cultivation of drugs included in its Schedules. Cannabis was placed in both Schedule 1 and 4 (Mead 2014)
So what are the regulations in Australia exactly?
The short answer here is any doctor in Australia can make an application to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) under the Special Access Scheme.
This application outlines why the doctor has the professional opinion that their patient should be approved to access a Medicinal Cannabis Product.
If the total cannabinoid content of the medication is 98% (or more) CBD, the medication is considered a Schedule 4 Controlled Drug by the Office of Drug Control. If the other cannabinoid content exceeds 2%, the medication is classified as a Schedule 8.
So how can I find out if I’m eligible to access?
Medical cannabis has been approved for use by prescription in Australia under the Narcotics Drugs Act 1967. Medical cannabis can be used in the treatment of a number of conditions, however, each case is different and as a result, patients must have the therapy prescribed by a medical practitioner. There is no predetermined list of conditions for which a cannabis medicine can be prescribed.
Medicinal cannabis in Australia may be prescribed for any condition where the prescribing doctor feels there is a medical need. Eligibility to be prescribed medicinal cannabis is assessed on an individual basis by taking into account many factors in a patient’s history. This is best conducted by a doctor experienced in medicinal cannabis assessment and prescribing.
To understand whether you may be eligible for medicinal cannabis therapy in Australia, please speak to one of our qualified doctors or our team of experts.
Please note, medicinal cannabis in Australia cannot be prescribed solely for the treatment of cancer. However, it may be considered for treatment of symptoms related to cancer or side effects of cancer treatment. Medicinal Cannabis also cannot be prescribed to women who are currently breastfeeding or pregnant.
How long does it take to get approved in Australia?
Any relevant approvals are usually obtained by the next day provided a complete application is submitted by you including a copy of your health summary verifying the medical conditions for which you are seeking treatment. This is easily obtained from your current GP or specialist. We advise patients to obtain this in advance to expedite the process.
As the company with the most approved applications in Australia, we are here to help you complete this process quickly and easily.
How much does it cost? Can I get Bulk Billed?
We only offer privately billed consultations at this time. However, we have compared our pricing and are one of the most competitive in the market in Australia.
The cost of medicinal cannabis products itself can vary. We do not set prices and these are set by the product manufacturers. Costs vary and can typically range from $30 to $100 per patient per week, depending on the nature of the condition being treated, the product required and the dosage of the required product.
Medicinal cannabis products are not currently subsidised by the Commonwealth Government.
How do I receive my prescription?
Once prescribed, medicinal cannabis medications are dispensed from an approved pharmacy and delivered to your nominated address for your convenience anywhere in Australia.
This utilises the Australia Post premium eParcel service and you’ll receive regular updates during delivery and you’ll need to sign on delivery.
Alternatively, you may be able to collect your CBD oil or Medicinal Cannabis medication in person from the dispensing pharmacy.
The Cannabis Plant
The scientific word for Cannabis is actually Cannabis Sativa, further classified as Cannabis sativa L. There are many other names and slang terms used to describe the plant, such as, weed, pot, ganja, and marijuana is the version of the word derived from ‘Marihuana’ that is the Mexican word for any Cannabis plant.
As you may already be aware, cannabis grows in a variety of climates around the world and can be used in many applications such as medical and recreational uses, food, rope, biofuel, building materials, paper, and many. The plant is part of the Cannabaceae family that includes 170 species grouped in about 11 genera, of which hops is included.
There are many parts to the plant and each serves an individual purpose. It is commonly believed that the whole of a cannabis plant is certainly greater than the sum of its parts. When considering its therapeutic benefits, this is referred to as the ‘Entourage Effect’. Understanding its parts and categorises can alter and advance your experience and appreciation of the cannabis plant. There tend to be the following four categories:
Indica: Indica-leaning plants tend to produce dense, fat, heavy buds during the flowering stage. These strains are typically believed to give consumers a physical (body) high instead of a more of a mind (cerebral) high. Indica strains are often used as a muscle relaxant and are often consumed in the evenings to aid a good night’s sleep.
Sativa: Sativa plants take longer to grow and they yield less flower than Indica plants. Sativa strains of the weed plant are often said to offer users a more of a mind (cerebral), energetic, high. Sativa strains are therefore commonly used to enhance creativity and productivity.
Hybrid: As a blend of Sativa and Indica, hybrid strains are generally believed to give you a more balanced high, they tend to be broken down into Sativa-dominant Hybrids, Even Hybrids (50/50), and Indica-dominant Hybrids.
Hemp: Hemp plants differ from regular cannabis plants mentioned above in that they produce only trace amounts of THC, the cannabinoid responsible for the intoxicating effects. They tend to be primarily cultivated for their fibres for industrial purposes. the 2018 Farm Bill (USA) specified hemp as a cannabis plant containing up to 0.3% THC. It’s worth noting that hemp plants can produce a number of other important cannabinoids, most notably cannabidiol (CBD).
The Endocannabinoid system (ECS)
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex cell-signalling system and is active in your body even if you don’t use cannabis.
It’s commonly known that the ECS plays role in regulating the status of your internal environment (homeostasis) and it’s known to have a range of functions and processes, including:
- reproduction and fertility
Endocannabinoids are molecules similar to cannabinoids, but they’re produced by your body as needed to keep internal functions running smoothly.
Experts have identified two key endocannabinoids so far:
- anandamide (AEA)
- 2-arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG)
Endocannabinoid receptors are found throughout your body and endocannabinoids bind to them to signal a response from the ECS.
- CB1 receptors, which are mostly found in the central nervous system
- CB2 receptors, which are mostly found in your peripheral nervous system, especially immune cells
Here’s a brief overview on how the Scientific understanding of the ECS has evolved;
- 1964 Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) was elucidated (Gaoni & Mechoulam 1964)
- 1967 THC was chemically synthesised in 1967 (Mechoulam, Braun & Gaoni 1967)
- 1988 Research identified that THC was stereospecific (Mechoulam et al. 1988)
- 1988 First cannabinoid receptor (CB1) was identified (Devane et al. 1999; Matsuda et al. 1990)
- 1992 The endocannabinoid Anandamide was identified (Devane et al. 1992)
- 1993 Second cannabinoid receptor (CB2) was identified (Munro, Thomas & Abu-Shaar 1993)
1995 The endocannabinoid 2-AG was identified (Mechoulam et al. 1995; Sugiura et al. 1995)
What’s cannabis oil, CBD oil and Hemp Seed Oil?
Cannabis oil is also known as Medical Marijuana Oil is not to be confused with Hemp Seed Oil. Cannabis oil contains active ingredients named, cannabinoids, and there is usually also a terpene profile (more information on this below), all these are usually dissolved into a carrier oil.
These carrier oils vary by the manufacturers and can be made from various sources such as olive, grapeseed, palm, coconut, sunflower, MCT (medium-chain triglyceride – made from other oils), etc. If you have allergies that you know of, it is best to check with your doctor or directly with the manufacturer of the medication you are prescribed – as the way CBD oil is made by each manufacturer may change over time.
There’s more on this and the differences of CBD oil below.
CBD (Cannabidiol) is a compound that can be either extracted from the cannabis plant or synthetically derived. It’s important to note that CBD is both non-psychotropic or non-psycho-active. CBD is one of the fastest-growing nutraceuticals in the world, clinical studies show that CBD does have a range of potential health benefits for people suffering from a variety of conditions and indications.
CBD oil is also common as a medicine as it has a narrow side effect profile when compared to other mainstream pharmaceuticals. However, some patients have reported side effects of Cannabidiol including dry mouth, low blood pressure, light-headedness, and drowsiness, but these are very uncommon.
What’s CBD Oil exactly?
As covered above, CBD oil contains Cannabidiol (CBD) which is suspended in a carrier oil.
CBD oil is usually taken orally by holding the oil under your tongue for as long as you can and then swallowing. Taking CBD orally provides a longer, slower onset (time to take effect) but the upside is it can give longer-lasting results. Another advantage is you can easily measure the exact dose.
CBD oil is a Schedule 4 medication if it contains 98% or more CBD in the total cannabinoid profile, anything less than this and medications are classified as a Schedule 8.
Is CBD and CBD oil safe?
CBD is a non-toxic substance that doesn’t make people feel high (non-euphoric). Side effects of CBD oil are minimal when compared to comparable medications that may be used to treat symptoms. The experiences range from patient to patient, some of the potential side effects include dry mouth, nausea and light-headedness.
CBD has a vast amount of therapeutic potential which is why it’s proving so common on a global scale. To name a few, CBD oil is used as an anti-inflammatory antioxidant, anticonvulsant, antibacterial, appetite stimulant, antipsychotic, antitumoral, immunomodulator, anti-diabetic, anti-psoriatic, anti-ischemic, antiproliferative, bone stimulant and neuro-protective properties.
Due to its expansive therapeutic window, it’s effective in managing symptoms across a variety of conditions and indications.
Black Market vs Legal Access in Australia
All cannabis products used for therapeutic means require a medical prescription in Australia. Therefore, buying CBD oil in Australia online without a prescription is illegal.
Taking that aside for a second, this argument comes down to a very simple question, do know what you are buying? When CBD oil and medical cannabis oils are commercially manufactured, medications need to adhere to very strict quality standards of manufacturing. This leads to consistency which is imperative when using any substance as a medicine.
Consistency is highly unlikely with black market products and there are no regulations associated which mean you could be buying literally anything. There are no guarantees regarding the stated cannabinoid content on any product and there could also be the use of harmful contaminants such as heavy metals, bacteria, fungus, viruses, herbicides, or pesticides.
For any medication to be effective, it needs to have consistent quality and safety standards in place. If you are considering buying a product without a prescription that claims to contain CBD, please be aware that it is both illegal and highly risky. You cannot trust the label or and third-party testing results with these suppliers and be mindful that they are not subject to quality audits by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
The TGA is aware of false claims made by some companies in Australia, the USA and other countries supplying products including CBD oil containing (or claiming to contain) CBD (Cannabidiol) and they are working hard to minimise this to protect the safety and wellbeing of Australian patients.
Considerations when taking CBD Oil
Most prescribed cannabis oils and CBD oils are meant to be swallowed. Sometimes, medications can also be made to be absorbed in the mouth, or under the tongue.
Because the oils can contain other plant compounds, most commonly ones called terpenes, they can have a strong smell or taste that may take some time getting used to. Different formulations, or brands, of CBD oil, may have varying amounts of these terpenes.
Depending on the CBD Oil, it can have an earthly bitter taste. One tip to manage this is to first coat your mouth first with a fatty-rich food like avocado or yogurt. This should prevent the taste buds on top of your tongue from being affected.
It is usually recommended that these oils are taken with, or just after, food. This can increase the amount that is absorbed into your body and make the medication more effective.
We have a team of healthcare practitioners that can assist you with you dosing regime.
What is the difference between cannabis oil and CBD oil?
‘CBD oil’ and ‘Cannabis oil’ usually refer to the same substance. This usually means extracts from the cannabis plant, that is dissolved in a carrier oil.
In this article, the terms CBD oil and cannabis oil will be used interchangeably. Technically speaking, ‘CBD oil’ refers to the cannabis oil that contains just CBD and few other cannabinoids. However, many people use the term ‘CBD oil’ to mean any oil containing active ingredients from the cannabis plant.
The active ingredients in these medications are cannabinoids. However, not all medications are the same. Cannabinoids that you may have heard of are THC and CBD (or TetraHydroCannabinol, and CannaBiDiol). Cannabis and CBD oils may contain many other cannabinoids as well, however, most prescribed medicinal cannabis oil in Australia mostly contains different combinations of primarily THC and CBD.
What is hemp oil and hemp seed oil?
Hemp oil refers to oil that contains extracts from the hemp plant. Although hemp itself technically comes from the same species (the cannabis plant), hemp has been cultivated and grown over time to have low or absent levels of THC.
Additionally, it may have traces of CBD present, however, this can only be at very low levels to be able to be purchased over the counter in Australia. Because of this, hemp oil is likely to not contain enough CBD to be effective for certain symptoms.
Think of Hemp oil as a supplement to olive oil which you can buy in supermarkets across Australia with a greater profile of Omega 3 and 6.
Hemp products are widely available on the shelf of your local supermarket. These are food-grade products derived from Hemp seeds. These products are food-grade and while derived from Hemp seeds, they are nutrient-rich with proteins, omega 3 and omega 6, iron, etc. However, these types of products do not usually contain therapeutic amounts of Cannabinoids.
CBD oil is primarily produced from the flowers, leaves and stalks of the Cannabis plant and not from the seeds like Hemp Seed oil.
Some hemp products may contain trace amounts of CBD (limited to 0.04% CBD or over 0.01% THC) which is clearly a sub-clinical dose and not for therapeutic use.
There is some clever marketing campaigns out there but please don’t be another victim, speak to a doctor and get a medication you can rely on.
How can you read your medication label on your CBD oil or cannabis oil?
The first thing to do is calculate the milligram (mg) per ml of active cannabinoids. Most medications make this very obvious for patients on the bottle and packaging, for example, CBD 100 is often a reference to 100mg per ml.
Some products state the total milligram (mg) content, for example 1000mg in 30ml.
600 (mg) / 30 (ml) = 20 mg/ml
Ok, once you have that information, you may wish to calculate the cost per milligram (mg). If you paid $100 for this medication, the calculation would be as follows;
100 ($) / 600 (mg) = 0.16c.
If you have any trouble calculating this or you would like to learn more, simply contact on of the friendly team on 1300 633 226. We have a team of pharmacists waiting to support you with understanding how to get the most out of your medication.
Do I need a prescription for CBD oil in Australia?
Currently, the only legal way for patients to access CBD oil in Australia (with sufficient concentrations of CBD and/or THC to be useful) is through a prescription.
There are many sources of CBD oil that can be found throughout Australia, online, or from overseas – however, the majority of this is not legal. Although many people may first hear about (or try) these CBD oils from these other sources, their production isn’t regulated. This means that there aren’t any guarantees of consistency of (or even any!) cannabinoids despite what may be printed on the bottles. There also isn’t any required testing for contaminants, also called adulterants, such as pesticides, heavy metals, fungi and toxins.
Prescribed cannabis oil, on the other hand, is required to go through various rounds of testing before it can be prescribed to patients in Australia. Besides being free from contaminants, the medications have standardised concentrations of CBD and/or THC, which enables you to receive a consistent level of medication.
Potential Side Effects of CBD oil
Like any medication, there are potential side effects you should be aware of before commencing treatment. While generally, CBD is considered very safe, it’s important to have a balanced understanding of the associated risks.
Some of the known side effects include:
- Dry mouth
- Low blood pressure
- Low appetite
- Weight loss
Other more severe, and far less common side effects include;
- Pyrexia (fever)
- Somnolence (drowsiness)
- Abnormal results on liver-function tests
It’s worth noting here that most side effects occur early on when increasing dosages.
Drug Interactions and Medical Contraindications
Low Blood Pressure
Some studies have shown that CBD may assist with lowering blood pressure. Based on this, there is a possibility that individuals who already have low blood pressure may need to consider this further as they may be at increased risk.
Medications with Grapefruit Warning
It’s commonly known that certain medications come with a warning to not consume grapefruit while on the medication. If you’re taking any medication that has this warning, you should consider not taking CBD.
Both CBD and grapefruit disrupt the function of cytochrome P450 (CYPs) proteins metabolised in your liver and can lead to dangerous levels of medication in your blood and increased risks of side effects from medication.
Pregnant or Breastfeeding
This one relates to common sense, the risks of CBD being passed onto an infant are not known, based on this, it’s recommended to avoid it.
In any case, it’s important to speak with your GP and / or prescribing physician. If you have any reservations, it’s vital to get the all clear from your doctor prior to commencing treatment.
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