Australians are self-medicating with cannabis

Man chopping cannabis

The latest research shows Australians are self-medicating with cannabis to help with pain, mental health, sleep and neurological conditions.

A survey of 1,744 conducted by the University of Sydney looked at the the use of cannabis for therapeutic reasons within the past 12 months.

The conditions being self-treated using cannabis are most commonly back pain, anxiety, depression, sleep problems, arthritis and PTSD (post traumatic stress syndrome).

Most people smoke cannabis either through bongs (42%) or joints (20%), although most indicated they would prefer using safer approaches, such as oral or vaporised methods.

Overall, those surveyed reported their cannabis use had been effective in helping manage health conditions.

However, they reported a range of side effects including increased appetite, drowsiness, eye irritation, lethargy and memory impairment.

While almost half reported some discomfort, such as sleep problems, when trying to stop cannabis use, less than 20% met criteria for dependence to cannabis.

Those surveyed also reported being worried about the illegal status of their cannabis use, citing concerns about employment, irregular access and highly variable quality of cannabis.

Most expressed a strong preferences for medical cannabis to be integrated into mainstream health care, and for products to meet quality and safety standards.

The study’s lead author, Professor Nicholas Lintzeris at Sydney Medical School, says unequivocal evidence about the safety and efficacy of medical cannabis for many health conditions is still lacking.

“While recent reviews indicate that certain cannabis products are effective for some patients with pain, sleep problems, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, and spasticity in multiple sclerosis, clinical trial-based evidence is still emerging for many of the conditions for which medical cannabis was used for in this study, such as anxiety, depression or PTSD,” he says.

The survey, funded by the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics, is published in the Medical Journal of Australia.

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