You’ve probably met its mate, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (aka THC aka the one that makes you high) but what about CBD? Inner North Medical Clinic support the use of Medicinal Cannabis for a range of medical conditions; we’re located in Northern Melbourne (Lygon St, Brunswick East).
What’s the deal with getting and using CBD oil in Australia?
What you and your mates potentially know as CBD oil is actually cannabidiol, a compound found in cannabis/word you’ll probably have to try pronounce at least twice.
You’ve probably met its mate, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (aka THC aka the one that makes you ≋h≋i≋g≋h≋) but CBD will not get you stoned. (Unless you’ve got it from somewhere slightly dodgy and you’re not 100% sure about the THC content).
So to be clear, CBD is used for medical reasons and NOT Reefer Madness. What kind of medical reasons? According to Dr Iain McGregor, Professor of Psychopharmacology, “It’s more a case of what it doesn’t do rather than what it does.”
What’s CBD good for?
It was first discovered in the 50s and 60s (in modern times) and was basically thought to be useless, says the Doc. That was, until the 70s, when we rediscovered its antiepileptic effects. But it really wasn’t until the past four or five years that there’s been a real increase in awareness and research.
“It’s become this almost universal panacea,” says Dr Iain. Depending on who you ask, CBD oil is good for what ails you, whether that be anxiety, anorexia, insomnia, PTSD, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, depression, migraines, or feeling chronically unchill.
Neuropharmacologist, University of Wollongong lecturer and Associate Investigator with ACRE, Dr Katrina Green, also notes that after 12,000 years of interaction between humans and cannabis, our understanding of this plant is still very much in its infancy.
“CBD is obviously pretty important. Its anti-inflammatory capacity and its ability to protect the brain is evident in almost every study that you pick up.”
She finds these anti-inflammatory effects, even in low doses of cannabidiol, especially exciting since inflammation kind of underlies everything. “Low levels of inflammation are involved in body weight gain, if you pull a muscle. there’s such wide ranging benefits to anti-inflammatories.”
“There’s evidence, particularly in illnesses of the brain, that it does work,” she says. So depression, anxiety, ADHD, tourettes, PTSD, different aspects of psychosis — for those type of things the evidence consistently shows that there’s benefits. CBD is not as great with pain, she says, because you kind of need THC to get any pain benefits.
But CBD research takes money, something which scientists are notoriously short on. And ideally they’d be able to grow their own products here to research but that would take less regulation, something which governments are notoriously fond of.
So, what’s legally available in Australia?
As of 2015 CBD oil is legal in Australia, as long as it contains at least 98% cannabidiol and 2% or less of other cannabinoids found in cannabis. When compared to a lot of other countries, like the US, Canada, Japan, Germany, Switzerland, UK, Netherlands, we’re quite behind.
“Surprisingly the government — particularly the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), which regulates how drugs are marketed and available to consumers — seem to be listening,” says Dr Iain.
CBD has recently changed from Schedule 4 (prescription only) to Schedule 3, which means you should be able to get low dose CBD (max.150 mg daily dose) over the counter at your local pharmacy.
However, there are currently no TGA approved products on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) that meet the Schedule 3 criteria. And that process of approval could take years.
How do you actually get CBD oil?
“CBD got caught up in the whole medical cannabis legalisation thing that happened from late 2016,” Dr Iain explains. As part of that, there was a “torturous process” set up for Australians to access CBD, whereby you had to go through a doctor, hope said doctor is educated about CBD and is in favour of its use, then persuade them that CBD is right for you, then they would need to write a complicated application and send that off to Canberra to the TGA who would then decide either way.
The difference now is that Authorised Prescribers (AP) don’t need to apply to the TGA via the Special Access Scheme (SAS), they can write you a prescription on the spot. These APs can be either specialists or a GP, but there’s no full list right now, so your best bet is to start making some enquiries.
Of course, if you do go that route, there’s the issue of cost, which is prohibitive for a lot of people. Sitting at about $10-$15 a day, “you’d probably find it’s cheaper to grow your own (and a lot of people do).”
As of 2020, out of the approvals issued in total in over three years, Dr Iain estimated that about 20,000 patients gained access legally (when you take into account the prescription renewals throughout that time). “And there’s probably 10 times more people — certainly from our surveys — that are accessing illicit cannabis and self-medicating.”
So yeah, the government and researchers are well aware that a lot of people in Australia are opting to bypass the current system and spend their money offshore, buying online from places like Canada and the US. But there are signs that prices will go down, since obviously there’s an increasingly competitive market for it.
Already there’s countless overseas companies taking an interest in selling to Aussies. “They see it as perhaps the fastest growing market in the world, even though it’s a small population the numbers add up,” says Dr Iain.
“The main thing we need is a really vibrant domestic market. It grows particularly well in Australia — the stuff just jumps out of the ground!”
The good news in all of this, agree both experts, is that that strict regime tends to ensure high quality control of the product. “By being careful and quite well regulated the Australian scheme is probably going to give rise to very good products that will have a lot of export potential,” says Dr Iain. “The unfortunate thing is, Australian consumers are having to wait a very long time to get these products and at a reasonable price.”
On top of that, your average over the counter product that’ll be available here will have relatively low concentrations of CBD. So, if you’re getting an oil that has maybe 30 milligrams per mil, your average daily dose is probably less than 100 milligrams of CBD. However, clinical trials and research suggest that effective doses for things like anxiety and psychosis tend to be a lot higher, they tend to be up around 500-1000 milligrams, which causes Dr Iain beg the question: “Even if we get the over the counter products available in Australia, will they actually be any good?”
Should you believe the hype?
Dr Iain says to “watch the hype.” He points to when cocaine was first invented, when they thought it would be a great cure for opium addiction and you could just chuck it in any old fizzy drink. “You always get this huge hype [around new drugs] and you do have to let research run its course. Big clinical trials take several years so complete; five years from now we’ll know a lot more about CBD and it’s potentials and limitations.”
There’s also the placebo effect to consider, so after weeks of use the shine may wear off and the expenditure may seem less worth it.
“The hype is almost certainly wrong. The idea that it’s just a placebo is almost certainly wrong, as well. So the truth is somewhere in between. What we have to do as scientists is work out what that truth actually is.”
As a neuroscientist, Dr Katrina is particularly interested in the developing brain and the short term and long term effects of cannabidiol use on it. “A lot of people say that CBD is non-psychoactive but psychoactive is defined as something that interacts with the brain and changes behaviour. Now that applies to THC, alcohol, heroin, whatever. CBD is absolutely psychoactive, it’s just psychoactive in a good way.”
“What is concerning. as CBD becomes more available companies will inevitably jump on board to try and make a dollar out of it. This is the hype that I’m concerned about,” she says.
Especially when it comes to younger brains and an increasingly casual use of cannabis products, Dr Katrina advises: “Just remember cannabidiol is a medicine.”
“We’re saying that it’s beneficial for all of these illnesses, it’s not just a wellness substance like a vitamin C.” She recommends only taking it if you actually need to for genuine dysfunction or illness, not as a supplement, and to exercise “a little bit of caution when ordering things from overseas or using as a daily tonic”
CBD & Cannabis Clinic Brunswick East
We support the use of Medicinal Cannabis for a range of medical conditions.
Our Cannabis prescribing Doctors are experts in the Endocannabinoid system and can help you identify which products are likely to be suitable for you.
The pathway to Cannabinoid prescription involves a consultation with one of our Cannabis Clinic Doctors, who are Authorised Prescribers of these products. CBD clinic runs on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Cannabis, particularly THC, is a Schedule 8 medication and is regulated by the Federal Government, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), and the state-based Department of Health Services (DHS). Access to medicinal cannabis requires TGA application through SAS B permit system, or through Authorised Prescriber authority. Reporting to the TGA is mandatory for each prescribing Doctor.
Once granted, permits are valid for 12 – 24 months.
To access a prescription, make an appointment through our Cannabis Clinic to see one of our Authorised Prescribing Doctors.
For further information, check out the Melbourne Medicinal Cannabis Network.
About Medicinal Cannabis
Cannabis has been used in various forms in both ancient and modern times for a vast array of conditions. Medical research into the medicinal use of cannabis is currently relatively limited, however, more and more studies are being performed on the use of medicinal cannabis to treat a number of conditions.
More than 100 different cannabinoids have been identified in cannabis, however, there are 2 main compounds that are medically important: delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
Medicinal cannabis products have different actions depending on the ratio of THC to CBD. CBD acts to balance out the psychoactive effects of THC, so combining CBD with THC allows a larger dose of THC with limited psychoactive side effects.
THC and CBD have the exact same molecule make up, with slight difference in how their atoms are arranged to give a slightly different molecular structure. THC is the main psychoactive compound of Cannabis that produces the ‘high’ sensation. Although CBD is psychoactive, it does not produce a ‘high’, instead helping with anxiety, depression and seizures.
THC and CBD are chemically similar to normal existing endocannabinoids neurotransmitters in the human body.
THC binds to Cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptors in the brain, producing a sense of euphoria, or a ‘high’. CBD binds weakly, if at all, to these CB1 receptions. CBD needs THC to bind to the CB1 receptor, and can help reduce some of the unwanted psychoactive effects of THC (such as euphoria or sedation). CBD is very well tolerated, even in large doses.
Medicinal Cannabis is utilised to treat a variety of medical conditions, with differing CBD/THC components used for different issues.
1. CBD Dominant
Seizures, Inflammation, Chronic Pain, Psychosis or mental disorders, Inflammatory bowel disease, Nausea, Migraine, Depression, Anxiety
2. THC Dominant
Chronic pain, Muscle Spasticity, Glaucoma, Insomnia, Low appetite, Nausea, Anxiety
3. Balanced Dose
Anxiety, Tremor, Migraine, PTSD, Insomnia, Arthritis, Nausea, Vomiting, Chronic Pain
Drug Testing & Driving
Cannabinoids like THC and CBD are stored in adipose tissue, the bodies fat cells, and can be detected for several days or weeks after using them.
Most standard drug tests look for chemicals related to THC, however, CBD sensitive tests also exist.
In Victoria, it is an offence to drive with any amount of THC in your system. Driving is allowed with CBD only medications.
Patients taking CBD only medicines can drive lawfully, as long as they are not impaired.
Legally you are not allowed to drive with detectable THC in your system.
Consultation for permit application is an initial $55 out of pocket, with permit application itself costing the patient $200. Permit application is required for first script.
Permits are valid for 24 months.
The script and permit are then taken to a registered Pharmacy. The cost of the product is roughly between $150 – $250 payable to the pharmacist on dispensation.
A free telehealth consultation is conducted 2 weeks post initial prescription. This appointment is booked by the Doctors during initial consultation.
Further consultations have a standard consultation fee of $55 out of pocket. Additional follow up prescriptions attract a cost of $150.
For further information regarding Endocannabinioid Clinic at INMC check this info sheet out..