Is cannabis actually effective in treating pain?

CBD oil now sold over-the-counter

Low-dose cannabidiol (CBD) can be sold in pharmacies around Australia from today, for the first time without prescription.

The chemical compound - extracted from cannabis - is used to treat a number of health issues, including pain, insomnia and anxiety, and can now be bought over-the-counter after the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approved its sale last month.

While the product will only be available to adults in doses of no more than 150 milligrams per day, patients will no longer require a referral or special approval for its legal use.

According to studies, CBD is "rarely associated with severe adverse events, and that non-serious adverse events appear significantly lessened at lower dosages", the TGA noted.

Adults will be able to purchase cannabidiol over-the-counter in Australian pharmacies from today without a referral, special approval or a prescription. Picture: iStock
Adults will be able to purchase cannabidiol over-the-counter in Australian pharmacies from today without a referral, special approval or a prescription. Picture: iStock

"The shift to over-the-counter is a huge stepping stone in reducing stigma and encouraging wider societal acceptance around medical cannabis," Cannabis Doctors Australia (CDA Clinics) founder and clinical director, Dr Ben Jansen, told news.com.au in a statement, adding the move will facilitate better access to those who can benefit from it.

"Stigma is slowly continuing to change as education and information starts to outweigh ignorance and mistruths. 80 year of false stigma takes time to change."

From what the effects are to whether you can drive afterwards, here's everything you need to know.

WHAT IS CBD?

Also known as cannabidiol, CBD is a chemical compound originating from the cannabis (also known as marijuana) plant.

The naturally occurring substance can come in the form of an oil, which is manufactured by extracting CBD from the cannabis plant and placing it in a carrier oil, and has gained prominent attention in the health sector and has become an essential part of medicinal marijuana therapy.

WHAT DOES IT DO?

Unlike the THC compound in marijuana, CBD is a non-psychotropic - meaning you won't be left with a "high" sensation, CDA Clinics said in a statement.

"Low-dose CBD will benefit most patients, especially individuals experiencing chronic pain, anxiety, insomnia, arthritis and inflammatory issues - to name a few," Dr Jansen said.

"However, if patients find their symptoms persist further, they should seek further advice from a doctor or experienced cannabis doctor. Some patients may find that they need a higher dose or a different CBD product that is only available via a prescription."

Low-dose CBD has been shown to have benefits in both paediatric and adult patients.

WHO CAN GET IT?

As mentioned above, only adults will be able to purchase cannabidiol over-the-counter without a referral. It will only be available at pharmacies.

Any vaping or topical cream products will still only be available through a prescription from a doctor.

While pharmacies are now allowed to sell it over-the-counter, don't expect to find any in your local for at least six months, as no CBD oils have been given the green light for sale yet.

Manufacturers are working at a "lightning" rate to get products approved, former president of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Kos Sclavos, said.

IS IT SUBSIDISED?

CBD will not be subsidised by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) "until more years of data and assessment can be completed", Dr Jansen said, though some hospitals are paying for the product "in rare and severe cases".

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The naturally occurring substance comes in the form of an oil and can reduce a plethora of issues including anxiety, insomnia and PTSD. Picture: iStock
The naturally occurring substance comes in the form of an oil and can reduce a plethora of issues including anxiety, insomnia and PTSD. Picture: iStock

HOW DO I TAKE IT?

The most common way to consume CBD is via an oral oil method.

"However, just because we all have feet doesn't mean we wear the same size shoes and each patient's dose will vary in regards to one's symptom response," CDA Clinics said.

They advise patients "'start low and go slow', gradually increasing one's dose until it is effective".

It has also recommended users eat something with fat when taking it.

"As CBD is lipophilic, meaning it has an affinity for fat, it can be very helpful to eat something with fat in it when administering CBD, so your body absorbs it at a higher rate, ultimately making it more effective," they said.

They recommend first eating something with fat in it (like a spoonful of yoghurt, cheese or avocado), then placing a drop on a spoon, putting it underneath your tongue and swallowing after 90 seconds.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO WORK?

When ingested, cannabidiol can take hours to absorb, "then the CBD needs days to weeks to have its effects build up and start to work".

"We recommend at least one week at effective dose to see effects," CDA Clinics advised.

"However, this can vary person to person, depending on their age, sex, gender, weight, hydration, other medications and use of alcohol."

Regular dosing typically leads to the most benefits in patients, they added.

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ARE THERE SIDE EFFECTS?

Common CBD side effects can include nausea, a dry mouth and diarrhoea.

"These side effects are possible, not probable, and usually self resolve once your body has gotten used to taking a CBD product," CDA Clinics said.

"This is why it is recommended to take CBD oil with food."

And while sedation is a very uncommon side effect, it's worth noting, the group said.

CAN I DRIVE AFTERWARDS?

According to the NSW Government, patients taking cannabidiol-only medicines can lawfully drive as long as they're not impaired.

Because CBD doesn't make a person feel stoned or high (when in an isolated form), it's considered safe to drive on.

 

Originally published as CBD oil now sold over-the-counter


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