New research from the Lambert Initiative at the University of Sydney shows that most Australians still use illegal cannabis medicines, although access to legal prescriptions has increased dramatically.
The third Cannabis as Medicine Survey (CAMS20) follows CAMS16 and CAMS18 and includes 1.600 people who use medicinal cannabis between September 2020 and January 2021. The results were recently published in Harm Reduction Journal.
Medical cannabis on prescription
From the research found that 37 percent of respondents had received a legal prescription for medicinal cannabis – a significant increase from the 2,5 percent in the 2018 CAMS survey (CAMS18). Those using only prescription cannabis tended to be older, female, and less likely to be employed.
“The data suggest that we have seen a transition from illegal to legal use of medicinal cannabis,” said lead researcher Professor Nicholas Lintzeris of the University of Sydney's Faculty of Medicine and Health.
“A number of benefits were identified when switching to prescription products. People who used illegal cannabis were more likely to smoke it, while patients on legal products took it orally or vaporized it. This highlights the health benefit of prescription cannabis.”
Overall, respondents reported positive results from medical cannabis use, with 95 percent reporting an improvement in their health.
Access the medical marijuana
The main reason for using prescription medicinal cannabis was chronic pain. Despite the large increase in the number of patients receiving prescription products over the past two years, only 24 percent of patients agreed that the current model for accessing medicinal cannabis was easy or straightforward.
Cost was cited as the main reason for this. These are on average $79 per week. People using illegal medicinal cannabis also mentioned an inability to find doctors willing to prescribe cannabis. This is in line with findings from a recent 2020 Senate inquiry into the barriers to patient access to medicinal cannabis in Australia. More work is needed to improve healthcare professionals' education about medicinal cannabis.
The survey is the latest in the CAMS series, the largest national survey of medicinal cannabis users conducted every two years. It was set up as a collaboration between the Discipline of Addiction Medicine in conjunction with the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics at the University of Sydney.
Source: www.sydney.edu.au (EN)