We’ve been hearing about CBD for a long time, and now Australians can get their hands on it without a prescription.
Low-dose cannabidiol (CBD) is now available in pharmacies nationally following approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Low-dose CBD has been shown to benefit both paediatric and adult patients, but this over-the-counter prescription is only available to adults.
Previously, CBD was only available with a difficult-to-get doctor’s prescription.
Why is this a big deal?
“The shift to over-the-counter is a huge stepping stone in reducing stigma and encouraging wider societal acceptance around medical cannabis,” Cannabis Doctors Australia (CDA Clinics) founder and clinical director, Dr Ben Jansen, told news.com.au in a statement.
“Stigma is slowly continuing to change as education and information start to outweigh ignorance and mistruths. 80 year of false stigma takes time to change.”
What is CBD?
Let’s clear this up straight away. Although it is extracted from the cannabis plant, CBD is not marijuana. You aren’t going to get high from it.
THC is the compound in marijuana that delivers the high, whereas CBD is a non-psychotropic.
The confusion stems from the fact that CBD, which often comes as an oil, is known as medicinal marijuana.
What does it do?
This beneficial chemical compound has numerous health benefits. It helps alleviate pain, which is one of the reasons it’s popular with cancer patients, and can also help treat anxiety and insomnia.
“Low-dose CBD will benefit most patients, especially individuals experiencing chronic pain, anxiety, insomnia, arthritis and inflammatory issues – to name a few,” Dr Jansen said.
“However, if patients find their symptoms persist further, they should seek further advice from a doctor or experienced cannabis doctor. Some patients may find that they need a higher dose or a different CBD product that is only available via a prescription.”
Are there side effects?
The TGA notes that studies show CBD is “rarely associated with severe adverse events, and that non-serious adverse events appear significantly lessened at lower dosages.”
It’s one of the reasons why legal CBD will only be available at a maximum of 150 milligrams per day.
Common side effects can include diarrhoea, a dry mouth and nausea. Sedation is considered a very uncommon side effect.
“These side effects are possible, not probable, and usually self resolve once your body has gotten used to taking a CBD product,” CDA Clinics said.
“This is why it is recommended to take CBD oil with food.”
Is it safe to drive after taking CDB?
Yes, according to the NSW Government. CBD doesn’t give you a marijuana high, so it’s considered safe to drive on.
How do you take it?
CBD is usually sold in an oil form and it is taken orally, under the tongue. To help its absorption, it’s a good idea to eat something with a high-fat content before taking it, such a spoonful of yoghurt, cheese or avocado.
“As CBD is lipophilic, meaning it has an affinity for fat, it can be very helpful to eat something with fat in it when administering CBD, so your body absorbs it at a higher rate, ultimately making it more effective,” CDA Clinics said.
After your fatty bite, they recommend placing a drop of CBD oil on a spoon, putting it underneath your tongue and waiting 90 seconds before swallowing.
Patients are advised to “‘start low and go slow’, gradually increasing one’s dose until it is effective”.
How do you know it’s working?
This requires playing the long game. Cannabidiol can take hours to absorb after its ingested, “then the CBD needs days to weeks to have its effects build up and start to work”.
“We recommend at least one week at an effective dose to see effects,” CDA Clinics advised.
“However, this can vary person to person, depending on their age, sex, gender, weight, hydration, other medications and use of alcohol.”
To reap the most benefits, they recommend regular dosing.
Can anyone get it?
Over-the-counter CBD will only be available to adults. Topical creams or vaping products will still require a doctor’s prescription.
Before you make a beeline for your nearest pharmacy, take a breather. While CBD is now legally allowed to be sold over the counter, no CBD oils have been approved for sale yet. It’s estimated that it will take at least six months.
According to the former president of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Kos Sclavos, manufacturers are working at a “lightning” rate to get their products approved.
It is subsidised?
The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) won’t subsidise CBD “until more years of data and assessment can be completed”, Dr Jansen said.