With NSW Health Minister Reba Meagher last week announcing that her government will be applying for permission from the Federal Government to import a drug to begin a trial of the medical use of cannabis, it was surprising to see so little resistance to the idea. Perhaps people actually realised that this is not the first step towards legalisation of the drug, but rather an act of compassion towards those people who have not been able to find assistance through traditional medicine.

The medical uses of cannabis have been recognised for thousands of years. Physicians in ancient China used it to relieve constipation, loss of appetite and pain during childbirth. With the development of synthetic drugs in the 20th century, herbal remedies in general fell into disuse.

We use the term cannabinoids to refer to pharmaceutical-quality drugs that act in the same way in the body as some substances in the cannabis plant, such as THC. Two examples of cannabinoids are nabilone, which is THC in a capsule and is available in the UK for medical uses, and dronabinol, which is synthetic THC and is available in the US.

It is believed that NSW will trial Sativex, an oral spray which delivers the cannabis compounds. The manufacturers of the product grow cannabis, then extract the cannabinoids CBD and THC. They say that the formulation enhances the pain relief of THC, while controlling the unwanted psychotropic and other THC-related side effects, such as rapid heartbeat.

It is important to remember that cannabis and cannabinoids are useful to relieve symptoms of illnesses, but do not cure the underlying disease. Many of the uses of cannabis for medical purposes revolve around its ability to reduce pain and nausea, stimulate appetite and perhaps reduce muscle spasms.

It has been agreed that cannabis or cannabinoids may be useful for some persons with the following conditions: HIV-related and cancer-related wasting; pain unrelieved by usual pain relief treatments; neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis; spinal cord injuries; and nausea and vomiting in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

It will be interesting to see if the trial gets the green light from the Rudd Government. The previous Federal Government refused to give permission for the State Government to import the product and as a result it fell through. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Remember: if you do not want any negative consequences, do not use the drug and, no matter how many times you have used a substance, never be blas?/p>

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