Definitive research supporting the benefits and side effects of medicinal cannabis products is still lacking, according to University of Tasmania pharmacologist Dominic Geraghty.
The medicinal use and supply of cannabis and cannabinoids was decriminalised in Australia in 2016, however the debate for and against the use of the drug remains ongoing.
While many health professionals and politicians support making cannabinoids available for the treatment of specific medical conditions, most are not in favour of legalising cannabis.
Professor Geraghty, who is the immediate past president of the Australasian Society of Clinical and Experimental Pharmacologists and Toxicologists, said this was largely due to a lack of concrete evidence.
He said there were still many myths surrounding the “use and abuse” of cannabinoids products.
“Medicinal cannabis is not a magic bullet,” he said.
“It will not be a cure-all for everything.
“Understanding and more education, they are probably the biggest things and health literacy is one of the biggest issues we have here in Tasmania.
“Over the years there have been hundreds of clinical trials, on the use of cannabis as a treatment for many different diseases.
“The vast majority of these trials were not well designed or well executed.
“It is important to note that the majority of current properly designed clinical trials on medicinal cannabis contain only cannabidiol, which does not have the ‘intoxicating’ effects of THC.”
Health issues associated with ongoing recreational cannabis use include increased incidences of schizophrenia and depression.
However, medicinal cannabis products have been shown to be beneficial in relation to pain relief and for treating neurological conditions such as epilepsy.
Professor Geraghty said unlike recreational cannabis, the use of medicinal cannabinoid products was still in its infancy.
The danger, he said, was when the distinction between the two became blurred.
“Medicinal cannabis is still an incredibly new concept, here in Australia and in other parts of the world,” he said.
“However, compared with 30 years ago recreational cannabis contains very high levels of a potentially toxic compound, THC, but people still commonly think of cannabis as a being a soft drug – which it’s not.
“But when you are mixing with other medications, you can end up with very significant and potential harmful drug interactions.”
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