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Has legalising medicinal cannabis made a difference?

10 November 2020
New survey to give snapshot of Australians using cannabis medicinally
The University of Sydney is launching CAMS20 - an online survey of Australian medicinal cannabis use over the past 12 months. This survey will provide an updated snapshot on how Australians are currently using cannabis medicinally.
Photo of a medicine bottle and a cannabis leaf and some seeds

The survey will ask Australians about how they use cannabis as medicine. Photo: Pixabay

Researchers predict that 600,000 Australians are using cannabis for medicinal reasons. However, the previous Cannabis As Medicine Survey (CAMS18) revealed that the vast majority of people using cannabis as medicine were still sourcing their cannabis illicitly, despite medicinal cannabis being legalised in 2016.

Researchers from the University of Sydney are launching the latest edition of the Cannabis as Medicine survey “CAMS20” this week.

This online study, which runs every two years, surveys Australian who have used medicinal cannabis in the past 12 months and provides a snapshot of patterns of use, symptoms and conditions treated, methods of administration, where it is being sourced from, and effects on health and driving.

Professor Iain McGregor, academic director of the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics at the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre said: “The CAMS20 survey will allow us an important understanding of how medicinal cannabis use is evolving in the community as it becomes more mainstream. This is a particularly exciting and dynamic time in patient access to products and it is important for Australians to be able to confidentially share their experiences around medicinal cannabis, both legal and illegal."

Photo of Helen and her dog

"My pain levels are significantly decreased," said Helen.

Chronic pain and cannabis

Helen, from Queensland, said she has experienced chronic pain as a result of a fractured vertebrae, fibromyalgia, nerve pain and other medical conditions for decades. She is unable to take a variety of medications such as opiates, Tramadol and Lyrica, due to severe side effects.

“It seemed there was nothing I could do to relieve the persistent pain,” Helen said. “However, since mid-2019 when legally prescribed medicinal cannabis became available, my life has been greatly changed. My pain levels are significantly decreased, my sleep has improved and I’m more active. The CAMS20 survey is important because it will allow more Australians to share their experience with medicinal cannabis."

Legal access

Legal access to medicinal cannabis has been improving with steady increases observed in the monthly approvals made by the Therapeutic Goods Administration under the Special Access Scheme – the main legal route of access. However, if a majority of people are still souring their cannabis from illicit sources, this survey may provide insight on why.

Although the legislative changes have resulted in significant improvements to accessing medicinal cannabis, further changes to legislative schemes may be required. For example, a recent Senate Inquiry has highlighted education, cost of medicine and current driving laws as significant barriers to access.

Cannabis as medicine, have you used it?

If you or someone you know over the age of 18 has used cannabis for medical purposes in the last 12 months, help researchers understand why and how cannabis is being used as medicine by completing the online survey here: https://redcap.sydney.edu.au/surveys/?s=D387MRCWH3

If you have accessed medicinal cannabis by prescription, we are interested to hear about your experience, as well as your thoughts on the process. If you are accessing medicinal cannabis via other routes, we are also interested in hearing your perspective. We intend to capture responses from a combination of prescribed and non-prescribed users.

The survey takes 15-30 minutes to complete, and participants can save their responses as they go. The survey is now live and will remain open until March 2021.

About the Lambert Initiative

The Lambert Initiative was established in 2015 following a $33.7m donation from Barry and Joy Lambert to the University of Sydney to conduct high quality research to discover, develop and optimise safe and effective use of cannabinoid therapeutics in medicine. Lambert Initiative is based at the Brain and Mind Centre at the University of Sydney.

Elissa Blake

Assistant Media Adviser (Science)

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