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Medical Cannabis NZ: Uses And Side Effects
In New Zealand, medicinal cannabis is now legal for people to use if they have a prescription. Doctors can prescribe it to patients with various pain-based ailments and anxiety disorders.
Recreational cannabis is currently illegal in New Zealand.
A few questions you may have are, what is medicinal cannabis? What is the use of medicinal cannabis? Are there any side effects?
Please continue reading to learn more about medicinal cannabis, its uses, its side effects, what medicinal cannabis products there are and more.
What Is Medicinal Cannabis?
Medicinal cannabis is cannabis specifically used for medicinal purposes, not recreationally. It is a prescription medicine, which most commonly comes in the form of easily dosed oils and you can get a prescription from a medical practitioner.
The basis of medical cannabis originates from the cannabinoids found in the cannabis sativa plant. It contains the cannabinoids CBD and THC. Medical cannabis is mainly prescribed to people with pains such as chronic pain and multiple sclerosis but also for anxiety disorders.
Medicinal cannabis products are significantly different to recreational cannabis, as they are mainly focused around CBD oil, whereas recreational cannabis mainly focuses on high THC content. Recreational cannabis use is illegal in New Zealand.
How Do You Consume Medicinal Cannabis Products?
Medicinal cannabis products can be given to you and taken in multiple forms and methods. Some of these forms and methods include:
- Oral spray or oil drops: For the spray, you spray the precise dosage directly into your mouth and swallow. To use medicinal cannabis oil drops, you place the drops directly under your tongue, hold it there for up to a minute and then swallow.
- Capsules: You should drop a capsule into water and swallow it with the water.
- Lozenges: To use a medicinal cannabis lozenge, place it in between your cheek and your gums and let it dissolve. The dissolving process can take up to 30 minutes.
- Gummies: Gummies are a less common product in New Zealand. To take them, you just eat the correct dosage.
- Vaporiser: A device that allows you to inhale medicinal cannabis.
- Gel, cream and patches: To take these, you just apply them to your skin.
How Does Medical Cannabis Work?
Medicinal cannabis products primarily contain the non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant, CBD. Medicinal cannabis differs from recreational cannabis, mainly consisting of a mix of CBD and THC.
CBD doesn’t psychoactively affect your cannabinoid receptors, so you use it for medicinal purposes instead of recreational cannabis.
Medicinal cannabis works by targeting the cannabinoid receptors that make up your endocannabinoid system throughout your body. These receptors bind cannabinoid providing the direct absorption pathway to your organs.
How Do You Get Medical Cannabis In New Zealand?
The only way to get medicinal cannabis in New Zealand is to find a doctor who prescribes cannabis-based medicines. Once you have a medical prescription, your doctor or pharmacy will give you the pharmaceutical grade product.
It is impossible to obtain medicinal marijuana in New Zealand without a prescription legally. It can’t be bought online or in a store. If you find a cannabis product online, it is likely an illegal product.
It is possible to obtain medicinal cannabis products that the ministry hasn’t approved. Your doctor or prescription provider has to send a special recommendation application to the ministry of health.
Medical Cannabis Use For Pain
The primary use of medicinal cannabis is to combat pain. It does this by targeting and numbing the pain receptors in your brain. Chronic pain is the primary pain that medical marijuana can fight; it’s a long-term pain caused by an illness. Some of the pains that medicinal cannabis can help to combat include:
- Arthritic and joint pain: Arthritis inflames your joints and causes moving to be very painful. Medicinal cannabis can lower the joint pain caused by arthritis, with very few side effects for the patient.
- Cancer pain: Medical marijuana can lower the likelihood of cancer treatment side effects like vomiting and inflammatory pain. Although it helps to reduce the side effects, medical cannabis is not a cancer treatment. However, The National Cancer Institute suggests that medical cannabis that’s primarily CBD based can be beneficial for lowering cancer pain.
- Neuropathic pain: Neuropathic pain stems from neurological disorders and can cause severe damage to your nerves. Medicinal cannabis can help to numb the pain, but the majority of research on the benefits of medical marijuana used for neuropathic pain focuses on cannabis products with a balanced mix of THC and CBD. In addition, medical marijuana can help with neuropathic pain effects in illnesses like diabetes.
- Multiple sclerosis: Multiple sclerosis can cause permanent damage to your brain and nerves and cause painful muscle spasms. Medical marijuana will assist with lowering the pain caused by multiple sclerosis muscle spasms, but it won’t combat multiple sclerosis directly.
- Back pain and neck pain: medicinal cannabis-based products can combat chronic neck and back pain. The numbing effect of medicinal cannabis can lower pain significantly.
- Rheumatic diseases: Rheumatic diseases can permanently damage parts of your nervous system, as well as cause pain in the muscles, organs, and joints. Medicinal cannabis can reduce the pain felt and stop further nerve degradation.
- Skin conditions: You can use medicinal cannabis creams and gels to slow the spread of skin conditions and reduce the pain felt by patients with them.
- Crohn’s disease: Crohn’s disease causes inflammatory pain to your intestines. Medicinal cannabis can help relieve some of the pain felt with Crohn’s disease, although it technically won’t stop or cure the inflammation.
Medical Cannabis For Anxiety
You can also use medicinal cannabis to relieve symptoms and effects caused by various anxiety disorders. Some of these symptoms include diarrhea, rashes, drowsiness, stomach problems, etc.
For example, PTSD is caused by a previous traumatic event and can make someone experience mental flashbacks and make them constantly anxious. Symptoms of this can include sleep deprivation and a negative mood. Medicinal cannabis reduces activity in your amygdala (threat response and fear centre in the brain), improving mood and sleep.
Medicinal cannabis can also ease the symptoms of generalised anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder, clinical depression, panic disorder, and more.
Medical marijuana’s calming effects can also help with chronic insomnia by helping you sleep quicker and keeping you asleep.
What Are The Potential Side Effects Of Medical Cannabis?
Multiple side effects come with medicinal cannabis products. However, the side effects will entirely depend on your product.
Some of the significant side effects you can find with medicinal cannabis products include:
- Stomach pain/ sickness
- Loss of appetite
- You can get a dry mouth
- Drowsiness/ lacking energy
Some of the medical marijuana products available to you will contain side effects that anxiety disorder patients also experience. For example, panic disorder can make you dizzy, so some medicinal cannabis products won’t help because they also bring on this side effect.
Your medical practitioner must prescribe you the correct medicinal cannabis product for your ailment. You can ask them to detail all of the side effects that a specific product will come with, and you can ask for a different product if you’re not comfortable.
Even though most medical marijuana products contain minor or trace amounts of THC, they can still negatively affect certain people. For example, you shouldn’t take any level of THC if you have psychosis, are pregnant, have a mood disorder, have heart problems (lack of heart rhythm, heart attacks, etc.), or have problems with your liver or kidneys.
What Types Of Medicinal Cannabis Products Are There?
In terms of medical marijuana, there are three primary forms that are manufactured into medical marijuana products.
The first form is pharmaceutical cannabis. Pharmaceutical cannabis products class as pharmaceutical grade products. A governing body such as the medicinal cannabis agency approves these medical marijuana products. An example product is Sativex (the name stems from cannabis sativa), effective treatment for MS.
The final form of medicinal cannabis is unregulated herbal cannabis. Because it is unregulated, it is illegal in New Zealand. It is illegal because they can include impurities like mould or bacteria. You can currently only find these products overseas, but that doesn’t mean that someone won’t try to import them to New Zealand.
Regarding what medicinal cannabis product types are available, you can get oils and oral sprays, lozenges, capsules, gummies, vaporisers (essentially a medicinal cannabis inhaler), gels, patches and creams.
What Is The Medicinal Cannabis Scheme?
The medicinal cannabis scheme was brought into effect by the NZ Ministry of Health. It exists to improve the overall quality of medical marijuana products in New Zealand.
The scheme does this by ensuring the medicinal cannabis can only be obtained by a patient with a prescription.
Anyone working in the medicinal cannabis industry (manufacturers, distributors, etc.) has to meet the minimum quality standards stated in the scheme. They also have to have a medicinal cannabis license to partake in the industry.
What Is The Medicinal Cannabis Agency?
The New Zealand Ministry of Health created the medicinal cannabis agency to enforce the medicinal cannabis scheme and make sure that all manufacturers (and anyone else working in the medicinal cannabis industry) make products that meet the minimum industry standard.
The medicinal cannabis agency first checks the product to determine whether it classes as a legal medicinal cannabis product. They then do yearly assessments to check whether the manufacturers keep the minimum quality standards.
The medicinal cannabis agency also provides medicinal cannabis licenses to those working in the industry.
Conclusion: The Uses And Side Effects Of Medicinal Cannabis
Medicinal cannabis is cannabis used for medicinal purposes that must be given to you by a medical practitioner who can prescribe cannabis-based medicines. Like recreational cannabis, medicinal cannabis derives from the cannabis plant, but it contains less THC and more CBD.
You can use medical marijuana to provide pain relief to patients with illnesses such as cancer or multiple sclerosis and anxiety disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder or panic disorder.
Side effects can include diarrhea, losing your appetite, getting a dry mouth, getting stomach pain and more. If you have an anxiety disorder with these side effects, your doctor needs to prescribe you a suitable medical marijuana product.
The main form you should concern yourself with is pharmaceutical cannabis, as it is legal in NZ and counts as a pharmaceutical-grade product. You can acquire medical marijuana in multiple products like oils, gels, lozenges, etc.
The medicinal cannabis agency correctly assesses and regulate all medicinal cannabis product. They also approve and give out medicinal cannabis licenses to manufacturers and others in the medical cannabis industry.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Fly On A Plane With Medicinal Cannabis?
You can bring a medicinal cannabis product on a plane with you if you meet specific criteria.
You can bring medical cannabis products with you if it’s a prescription medicine given to you by a doctor.
You must provide a screenshot or copy of the prescription letter, formally declare the medicinal cannabis, keep it in its original packaging and make sure the supply is smaller than three months.
How Do You Use Medical Cannabis?
There are many ways to take a marijuana product for medical purposes.
The form that doctors prescribe most often is oil form. You take medicinal cannabis oil by placing the correct drop dosage underneath the tongue and holding it there for 60 seconds before swallowing.
There’s also oral sprays, lozenges, capsules, gels and more.
Smoking cannabis is not a legal medicinal cannabis product; it is recreational cannabis.
Is Medicinal Cannabis Legal In New Zealand?
Medical marijuana has been legal in NZ since 2017.
The only way you can legally acquire medicinal cannabis in New Zealand is to get a prescription for it from your doctor. Doctors can prescribe it for pain relief or anxiety disorders.
Recreational cannabis is currently still illegal in New Zealand, as are any cannabis products that you can obtain without a prescription.
Can I Import Medicinal Cannabis from Other Countries To New Zealand?
Personal imports of medicinal cannabis are not allowed if you don’t have a prescription, whether you take medicinal cannabis products on a plane yourself or arrange for overseas delivery.
The only way to get a medicinal cannabis product legally imported to New Zealand is for your doctor to get a pharmacy to import the product on their behalf and then legally prescribe it to you.
What Is The Difference Between Medical Cannabis And Hemp Oil?
Hemp oil (or hemp seed oil) contains no psychoactive cannabinoids from the cannabis plant found in recreational and medicinal cannabis products.
Hemp oil only contains healthy nutrients contained in the cannabis plant. Hemp oils can maintain healthy skin and a healthy cardiovascular system. However, it is not effective for pain relief of anxiety disorders.
Unlike medicinal cannabis products, hemp oils are available for legal purchase without a prescription.