A recent study by Australian researchers has revealed a dramatic increase in the number of Australians using medical cannabis. Researchers from the Lambert Initiative at the University of Sydney found that even though most Australians still use illicit cannabis as a therapeutic alternative, medical marijuana prescriptions have risen significantly.
The Cannabis as Medicine Survey (CAMS20) quizzed 1,600 Australians on their medical cannabis use from September 2020 to January 2021. Its findings were published in the “Harm Reduction Journal.”
The poll found that 37% of participants had received a medical cannabis prescription within the survey period compared to the 2.5% of respondents who had medical cannabis prescriptions during the prior Cannabis as Medicine Survey (CAMS18), which ran from 2018–2019.
Nicholas Lintzeris, president of the Chapter of Addiction Medicine in the Royal Australasian College of Physicians as well as conjoint professor in the department of Addiction Medicine at the University of Sydney and lead researcher, said that the data suggests customers are shifting from illicit cannabis to the legal medical marijuana market.
Australia legalized medical cannabis in February 2016 when the Narcotic Drugs Act was amended to allow the cultivation of cannabis for scientific and medical purposes. Lintzeris noted that transitioning to the legal market has benefits, such as granting Australians access to safer means of consuming cannabis. He also noted that people purchasing from the illicit market are more likely to smoke cannabis (44%) compared to medical marijuana patients who can use vaporized or oral cannabis products (22% and 72%, respectively). Furthermore, most respondents (95%) reported improved health after switching to medical cannabis.
The survey also reported that 52% of the respondents said they used prescribed medical cannabis for pain, 26% to address mental health issues, and 6% to alleviate insomnia. On the other hand, 40% of the respondents used illicit cannabis for pain, 31% for mental health issues, and 11% to help them sleep. Respondents who used illicit cannabis reported high costs as a major barrier to entering the legal medical marijuana program; the average cost of regular medical cannabis treatments in Australia is around $79 per week. They also reported that it was difficult to find physicians willing to prescribe medical cannabis.
Despite these barriers to access, Professor Iain McGregor, academic director of the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics, said that using prescribed medical marijuana is more advantageous. On top of safer administration routes, medical marijuana patients have access to safer and more precise prescriptions, better communication with their doctors and greater certainty to access, McGregor observed.
This growing use of cannabis for medicinal purposes in Australia and around the world suggests that there may be demand for the cannabis-based medicines that companies such as India Globalization Capital Inc. (NYSE American: IGC) are developing.
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