Medical cannabis users still source illicitly DESPITE legalisation (Australia)

By June 20, 2020 Recent News

How Australians use medical cannabis since legislation: new survey
University of Sydney 17 June 2020
Australians report using medicinal cannabis for chronic pain, mental health and sleep with the majority sourcing cannabis illicitly, despite medicinal cannabis being legal, a new survey from the University of Sydney has revealed.

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.

Key findings

    • Illicit sources of cannabis appear to be the mainstay for patients despite two years of legal availability of medicinal cannabis, with only 2.7 percent of respondents accessing legal product.
    • The impediments to obtaining a prescription include the cost of products, the difficulties in locating a doctor willing to prescribe and the perception that a person’s usual doctor was not interested in investigating medicinal cannabis as a treatment option.
    • The survey revealed that pain, mental health (mainly anxiety and depression) and sleep remain the main clinical indications for which participants report using cannabis medicinally.
    • There is a current lack of clinical guidance for conditions such as anxiety, depression, insomnia – highlighting an urgent need for more clinical trials.
    • Results indicate a positive move away from smoking (joints, bongs) to non-smoked cannabis-based products (vaporised cannabis, oral products) since the CAMS-16 survey.
    • While most respondents in the survey continued to express disappointment with the legal models of medical cannabis availability, those who had actually pursued the illicit avenue reported quite positive experiences.
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