What You Need to Know About CBD

Mar 1, 2021

Cannabidiol (CBD) oil is becoming an increasingly popular choice for a natural treatment for many chronic conditions, including chronic pain, seizures and mental health conditions. Ongoing research has shown that CBD can be effective for some conditions, and does not cause the altered mental states or “highs” created by tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Compelling evidence supports claims from both patients and doctors of its efficacy, but there is still a long way to go until the uses of CBD are fully understood and accepted in the medical and legal communities.

Let’s shed some light on everything you need to know about CBD.

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a chemical found in cannabis plants. It does not contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the psychoactive ingredient that produces a high. Once it is extracted from the plant, it’s typically mixed with a carrier oil such as hemp seed oil or coconut oil to allow oral ingestion, topical application, and other methods of consumption. CBD has neither shown evidence of abuse potential nor problems related to public health concerns according to the World Health Organization (WHO)(2).

CBD interacts with many metabolic systems in the human body, through both receptor and non-receptor mechanisms. It has the ability to modulate the endocannabinoid system as well. The endocannabinoid system helps to regulate a large number of physiological processes affecting mood, immune activity, blood pressure, hunger, pain, stress, and more. As a result, CBD often demonstrates an incredible therapeutic potential(5).

What can CBD treat?

CBD is currently being researched for its properties to alleviate symptoms of multiple conditions, including:

● Chronic non-cancer pain
● Cancer pain and symptom management
● Anxiety
● Depression
● PTSD
● Epilepsy
● Autoimmune disorders
● Neurological conditions (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury)
● Inflammatory bowel disease (Ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease)
● Menstrual cramps
● Endometriosis

Typically, CBD is prescribed for patients who have tried the more ‘traditional’ medical treatments, with little to no success. Doctors will establish eligibility on a case by case basis, depending on the patient’s medical history and symptoms.

Some doctors have already transformed their practices to accommodate new findings for CBD's use as medicine due to anecdotal, “life-changing” results for large numbers of their patients. In fact, one doctor reported that in 2021 the majority of CBD users were middle-aged women who take the medicine for pain relief from inflammatory arthritis(4). As studies continue into the effectiveness of CBD for a range of conditions, we expect to see even more Australians adopting it for a range of conditions.

How Do People Take CBD?

Across the globe, CBD is consumed in a broad spectrum of forms for an equally broad spectrum of reasons. From edible gummies, brownies, and hard candies to vapes, lip balms, and bath bombs, consumers have plenty of options.

In Australia, however, due to strict regulations on CBD products, the most common forms are oils taken orally, sublingual wafers and oro-buccal sprays. CBD is typically taken by placing the recommended dose on a spoon, holding it under the tongue, and swallowing after 90 seconds.

Doctors generally recommend starting with low doses of CBD, particularly if a patient has never used it before in prescription form. Over time, patients should gradually increase the amount they take until they reach an effective dose for their treatment – then, they might reduce the dose if possible, over time. In other words, patients should maintain the smallest dose that provides the desired therapeutic effects.

Doctors may ask their patients to record when they take their doses and how much they’ve taken for future reference. Patients should also eat fatty foods when taking doses of CBD – that way, their bodies can absorb the CBD and experience its positive effects faster.

Who Can Prescribe CBD?

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) regulates the prescription and dispensing of all medicinal cannabis, including CBD. As medicinal cannabis and CBD is not an approved medicine, the TGA is required to grant permission for doctors on a case by case basis as outlined in the Special Access Scheme. Permission is only granted to doctors who have undertaken the necessary training and courses to prescribe CBD. If the health professional is an Authorised Prescriber according to the TGA, they will not need to get TGA permission on a case by case basis. All other prescribing health professionals must apply through the Special Access Scheme.

At Medihuanna, we offer accredited courses for doctors, nurses and pharmacists that will qualify them to prescribe and/or dispense medicinal cannabis and CBD. The courses explain the steps in the process for prescribing CBD, and provides the necessary training for health professionals to be able to confidently assess, prescribe and treat patients with CBD.

How Do People Access CBD?

Currently, CBD is obtained through a prescription from a qualified health professional. Patients can either talk to their usual GP, as they have a thorough understanding of their medical background, or go through an online medicinal cannabis clinic.

Once a prescription has been granted by the TGA or an Authorised Prescriber, any pharmacy can fulfil the script, provided they meet the necessary federal and state requirements. The pharmacist will then order the product from the supplier or sponsor for the specific prescription. Once the product arrives at the pharmacy it must be stored according to the state and federal regulations, depending on whether it is a Schedule 4 or Schedule 8 drug, until it is collected by the patient.

Is CBD Available Over-the-Counter in Australia?

In February 2021, Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) down-scheduled CBD from a prescription-only medication to a pharmacist-only medication(7). In other words, patients seeking treatment through CBD can legally purchase CBD over-the-counter.

However, while CBD is legal over-the-counter, currently no product containing the substance has been approved by the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG). CBD manufacturers must first demonstrate that their products are both safe and effective in order to be approved by the ARTG.

While CBD is widely available in countries like the US and UK, it may be some time before Australians can pick it up on their way home from the supermarket. Until then, patients must be prescribed CBD by their healthcare providers. As more organizations and countless individuals advocate for easier accessibility to CBD and its beneficial properties, the future for this fascinating medication looks brighter every day.

References

  1. CBD History: The Past, Present and Future of Using CBD
    Ministry of Hemp
    https://ministryofhemp.com/blog/cbd-history/

  2. New kid on the block?
    KPMG Whitepaper
    https://assets.kpmg/content/dam/kpmg/ie/pdf/2020/12/ie-whitepaper-insights-on-cbd-in-the-consumer-health-market-unlocked.pdf

  3. Cannabidiol (CBD) - what we know and what we don't
    Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School
    https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/cannabidiol-cbd-what-we-know-and-what-we-dont-2018082414476

  4. 'We know it works': Cannabis oil firms chase approvals as over-the-counter sales are legalised
    The Sydney Morning Herald
    https://www.smh.com.au/national/we-know-it-works-cannabis-oil-can-be-legally-sold-over-the-counter-from-monday-20210129-p56xyd.html

  5. What is CBD?
    Project CBD
    https://www.projectcbd.org/about/what-cbd

  6. Explainer: Low-Dose CBD Oil Can Now Be Bought Over-the-Counter. Here's What That Means.
    https://www.broadsheet.com.au/national/city-file/article/explainer-low-dose-cbd-oil-can-now-be-bought-over-counter-heres-what-means

  7. CBD will go on sale in Australia, but first manufacturers will have to prove it works
    The Guardian
    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/feb/07/cbd-will-go-on-sale-in-australia-but-first-manufacturers-will-have-to-prove-it-works#:~:text=On%201%20February%2C%20it%20became,(pharmacist%2Donly%20medicine)

Author: Dr. Teresa Towpik

Medihuanna Founder

Dr. Teresa Towpik has been a General Practitioner in Australia since 1993 and an advocate of medicinal cannabis since the law was amended and cannabis was legalized for medicinal use. In 2016 she founded Medihuanna with the goal to educate medical practitioners to safely treat patients with medicinal cannabis. Since then, she has been studying the therapeutic properties of cannabis, how it works, and the potential applications in General Practice, especially in the management of chronic debilitating pain.

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