Medicinal Cannabis Survey Highlights Need for More Support for People in Pain
Painaustralia’s survey on medicinal cannabis elicited responses from 454 individuals and four organisations, with the majority of respondents (85%) supporting the use of medicinal cannabis for pain management and highlighting the overwhelming need for better pain management services.
Many respondents explained they would prefer to use medicinal cannabis over prescription pain medications such as opioids, which carry side-effects and risk of death. Others said they have exhausted other possibilities for pain relief and would like the opportunity to try medicinal cannabis. The majority (62%) obtained information about medicinal cannabis from friends or family members and one in three (33%) were not aware of any scientific or clinical research that supports the use of medicinal cannabis for pain management, highlighting the need for clearer and more accurate public education.
According to the Faculty of Pain Medicine Statement on Medicinal Cannabis (which is currently being updated) there is limited evidence for its effectiveness for chronic pain. However, more research may shed new light. Respondents to the survey will be pleased to know that $2.5 million in National Health and Medical Research Council funding has been allocated to establish the new Australian Centre for Cannabinoid Clinical and Research Excellence – a world-first centre that will coordinate research into medicinal cannabis use. The research will help develop the evidence required to guide doctors on products and dosages that are safe and effective, and demonstrates commitment from the Australian Government to advance this issue.
Less than one in four respondents (24%) were aware that they can make an application to access medicinal cannabis legally through the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) Special Access Scheme with the support of their GP. The scheme covers a range of cannabis preparations including oils, tinctures and other extracts. According to the TGA medicinal cannabis products supplied in Australia will use this and other alternative pathways until there is more evidence to support widespread use.
Painaustralia CEO Carol Bennett says it is important government bodies take into account the evidence of efficacy balanced with the need for further research and limited access. People should consider the TGA’s Special Access Scheme as a way to have their individual case reviewed, should they wish to explore medicinal cannabis as an additional therapy. It is not considered a first line of treatment for chronic pain management.
“Fundamentally the survey shows we need more support for people living with pain as well as better public education on medicinal cannabis. While most respondents believe it should be readily accessible they are generally unaware of any evidence supporting its use in pain relief. In the meantime, people wishing to use medicinal cannabis for pain should speak with their GP and discuss its potential benefit in their particular case,” said Ms Bennett.
Painaustralia thanks everyone for participating in the survey, which together with the work of the FPM on the clinical use of medicinal cannabis, will be used to inform ongoing policy work.