Medicinal cannabis is any product that contains cannabis, or components derived from cannabis, that is prescribed by a doctor to treat the symptoms of a medical condition.
What is in medicinal cannabis?
Medicinal cannabis products generally include one or both of two key components – tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). These components are responsible for most of the medicinal benefit of cannabis.
How does medicinal cannabis work?
The Endocannabinoid System is a complex regulatory system made up of receptors, molecules called endocannabinoids, and enzymes that either synthesize or metabolize those endocannabinoids. The main function of the endocannabinoid system is to regulate the human body by maintaining homeostasis.
The cannabis plant produces more than 500 different chemical compounds, including over 120 phytocannabinoids (like THC and CBD), 30 (known) terpenes (like linalool and myrcene), flavonoids and hundreds of other compounds; but fewer than 50 of these compounds are produced in significant amounts.
CB1 receptors are found primarily in the nervous system while CB2 receptors are found predominately the immune system, however both receptors can be found in various organs throughout the body. The mapping of these receptors fits well with the diverse range of symptoms and conditions that are found to respond positively to medicinal cannabis, and the synergistic effect (known as the Entourage Effect) of these different compounds working together in each unique strain/medicine is what causes such diverse effects.
What conditions and symptoms is medicinal cannabis used for?
In order for the government to approve an authorisation for medicinal cannabis, there must be enough evidence supporting the benefits of treatment.
Currently, there are no restrictions imposed by the TGA on the indications/conditions for which a medical practitioner may apply for medical cannabis for their patient. The body of clinical evidence continues to grow daily, meaning a variety of other conditions may be recognised to have positive associated outcomes with cannabinoid medications.
Are there any side effects or risks of medicinal cannabis?
It is important to discuss potential side effects with your doctor. The risks and potential side effects of medicinal cannabis depend on the type of product, and the individual. Cannabidiol (CBD) generally has minimal side effects. However, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is known for making people feel ‘high’. Common side effects for both include:
Tiredness or drowsiness
Nausea and vomiting
Changes in appetite
Low blood pressure
Balnce also advises against smoking cannabis, as this poses risks to lung health.
Medicinal cannabis can interact with some other medications. It is important to tell your doctor about all prescription and over-the-counter medications and supplements you use or plan to use.
Who should avoid using medicinal cannabis?
It is important to discuss potential risks of medicinal cannabis with your doctor. In general, you should avoid using medicinal cannabis if you:
Have allergies or hypersensitivity to cannabis or carrier oil.
Are pregnant, breastfeeding, or hope to become pregnant during the treatment period.
Have a psychiatric condition
Have certain heart or lung conditions
Law and regulation
Is medicinal cannabis legal in Australia?
Yes. Medicinal cannabis is legal in Australia if an authorised prescriber (doctor) decides the treatment appropriate for you, you receive approval for use from Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), and you obtain the medicinal cannabis with a valid prescription.
How do I access medicinal cannabis?
To be eligible for medicinal cannabis, you must:
Be over 18
Be an Australian resident
Have had a chronic condition for at least three months
Have exhausted all conventional treatment options, or experienced adverse unacceptable side effects from these treatments
To access medicinal cannabis in Australia, you will need to consult with a doctor. They then need to apply for approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) on your behalf. If you are eligible and your application is approved, the doctor will help you access the medication.
How does the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approval system work?
The process to get TGA approval, then receive your prescription, is:
Discuss your health, needs and options with your doctor.
If your doctor thinks medicinal cannabis is appropriate for you, they will apply to the TGA on your behalf.
If your application is approved, this usually happens within 48 hours.
The doctor writes your prescription, which goes to a pharmacy.
Am I allowed to drive with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in my system?
Laws about driving with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) from medicinal cannabis in your system vary across states and territories. It is best to check your state’s or territory’s laws carefully.
Making an appointment
What is Balnce?
Balnce is an integrative and holistic telehealth clinic. It is an online hub for integrative medicine practitioners to provide medical service to patients from around Australia.
Do I need an appointment, or can I just call for advice?
You can access Balnce doctors by appointment only.
Do I need a referral to make an appointment?
No. A referral is preferred, but not required. However, please bring as much of your medical history as possible. This will help the doctor assess you thoroughly.
How do I book a telehealth appointment?
You can book an appointment by clicking the ‘Book a Consult’ button at the top of the Balnce website.
How does a telehealth appointment work?
You will speak to the doctor via the Balnce telehealth (online) platform. This means you can use video/audio over the internet to talk to them. Having a telehealth consultation is a convenient and effective way to see a doctor.
Appointments are available 24 hours per day, 7 days a week.
How often do I need to see the doctor?
You can expect to need multiple appointments when you start treatment, so the doctor can monitor how the treatment is working for you. Once a treatment plan is working well, appointments can be less frequent.
Will my doctor stay the same throughout my treatment?
If you are happy with your doctor, and feel your needs are being met, we recommend you see the same doctor for each appointment. We do our best to make sure that can happen, but it is not guaranteed.
Can I choose a female or male doctor?
Yes, you can choose whether to speak to a female or male doctor. This is subject to availability and is not guaranteed.
What happens to my personal details?
Will I speak to a qualified doctor?
Yes. Balnce doctors are fully qualified, as well insured and registered in Australia, and have advanced plant-based treatment expertise.
Where are your doctors located?
All Balance doctors are located in Australia.
How long have the doctors been prescribing medicinal cannabis for?
Medicinal cannabis is very new in Australia. Some of our doctors started prescribing in 2020.
Am I guaranteed to receive a prescription from my Balnce doctor?
No. Your Balnce doctor will assess your condition and circumstances. If they decide plant-based treatment is appropriate, they will apply to the TGA on your behalf. It is then up to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) whether they approve your application. If your application is approved, your doctor will write you a prescription.
How do I receive my prescription?
If you receive a prescription from the doctor, it will be sent to your preferred pharmacy, and you will receive an SMS to confirm this. We cannot send your prescription to you directly.
Where can I collect my medication?
Your prescription will be made available at a dispensing pharmacy or via your regular pharmacist.
How frequently do I need a repeat script?
This will vary on a case-by-case basis as it depends on what dosage your doctor prescribes.
How much does an appointment cost?
Initial consultations: $175.00
Follow up consultation: $80.00
Script renewal consultation: $45.00
Are my appointments bulk billed?
No. Medicare may contribute to the cost of some appointments for eligible patients, but there is an out-of-pocket cost for all appointments.
How much does medicinal cannabis cost?
The cost of medicinal cannabis in Australia can vary greatly and depends on a number of considerations such as a patient’s condition and the product being prescribed.
Please note, this cost does not take into consideration the private insurance benefit which eligible patients can receive from some health insurance companies.
Do I need a Medicare card for my appointment?
Yes, a Medicare card is needed to access our services.
I am an Australian citizen currently overseas, can I book a telehealth appointment?
No. For legal reasons we cannot offer telehealth services to patients outside Australia.
About integrative medicine
What is integrative medicine?
Integrative medicine is when natural medicine is used alongside traditional medicine. Also known as holistic health, it views an individual’s health condition as a combination of all symptoms – as opposed to isolated symptoms. This approach focuses on multiple parts of health, including:
Are there in risks of integrative medicine?
Some treatments used in integrative medicine can interact with other prescription medicines, alcohol and drugs. It is important to speak to your doctor if you are using any medicines, alcohol or drugs, to learn about any potential risks and side effects.