What Types of Medicinal Cannabis products are available?
When patients think ‘Medical Cannabis’, they often think about consumption of the flower via inhalation. However, there are over 450 legal Medical Cannabis products available in Australia, covering a variety of different forms. These include:
Cannabis flower, also known as the ‘bud’, contains the highest concentration of cannabinoids, including THC and CBD. For Medical Cannabis, the flowers are harvested and dried at a GMP certified facility under strict conditions. Flower is typically consumed through a vaporiser at 20-30 minute intervals, until patient symptoms have been managed. It is a faster acting but shorter lasting form of consuming Medical Cannabis.
Cannabis oils are a concentrated liquid extract made from the cannabis plant. The cannabis extract is held in a carrier oil such as MCT oil to facilitate absorption in the body. Despite often being called ‘CBD oil’, cannabis oils can include different parts of the plant, such as THC and terpenes.
A cannabis capsule involves consuming cannabis oil which is inside, or coated onto, a capsule. Usually a practitioner will start patients on an oil as opposed to a capsule, to allow for modification of dosage amounts. It is also generally a more expensive dosage form.
Lozenges and wafers
Medical Cannabis lozenges and wafers are similar to capsules, but they dissolve in the mouth, similar to a cough drop or mint.
One type of Medical Cannabis treatment available in Australia is via oral spray. They function similar to a capsule, lozenge or wafer in effect.
What types of Medical Cannabis products are not available in Australia?
Anybody who’s recently visited the United States or Canada will know about the wide array of products available globally, including drinks, gummies, chocolates and even dog treats.
Medical cannabis in Australia is regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), and cannabis products are only available to patients for treatment of their chronic conditions. This means that dosage forms which are traditionally used for recreational consumption are unlikely to be available in Australia any time soon.
What combinations of CBD and THC are there?
Within the dosage forms outlined above, there are an infinite number of cannabinoid combinations available.
The three categories of formulations are:
- Full spectrum – includes all parts of the plant, including THC
- Broad Spectrum – includes all parts of the plant, except for THC
- Isolate – only CBD, with no other parts of the plant
Generally, a doctor will start patients on a CBD isolate medicine, and monitor outcomes after one month. If the patient is finding some benefit, but is looking for something with a bit more ‘oomph’, the doctor may discuss up-scheduling the patient to a medicine with THC.
So… Which Medical Cannabis product is best for me?
Patients will often ask what type of Medical Cannabis is best for their condition. Unfortunately it isn’t that simple. More research needs to be done to identify which cannabinoids and dosage forms are best suited for different conditions, and everybody is unique.
Common practice in Australia is for doctors to start patients on an oil formulation because the duration of effect is longer, and it’s better for the lungs. It also allows for titration, the process by which a patient incrementally increases their dosage until the desired effect is achieved.
For severe conditions, flower can be appropriate for the faster-acting benefit. This is why it’s prescribed PRN (‘as needed’), as opposed to a consistent daily dose like oil.
Whilst capsules and lozenges do exist, they comprise an extremely small portion of Medical Cannabis prescriptions. This is partly due to their fixed dosage amount, which makes it harder for patients to titrate and determine the suitable dosage level for their unique endocannabinoid system and condition.
Want to learn more?
The best way to find out the suitable dosage form for your condition is to create a personalised treatment plan with a medical professional who has expertise in Medical Cannabis prescription. They’ll hold your hand through the journey, and assist you in finding out what works best for you.