People who have experienced serious trauma can now go to their GP and ask for cannabis oil, under a national trial examining the medicinal effect of marijuana.
Patients as young as 18 up to the elderly are now able to seek treatment through the trial using cannabis oil for serious mental health conditions.
Researchers behind the trial into post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) relief say that patients are desperate for alternative treatments because conventional medicine has failed them.
One man hoping to turn to cannabis oil said that he had a “drawer full” of pills doctors had prescribed him but nothing had worked and he just kept being recommended another pharmaceutical.
“I’d take anything (new to try) I can at this point as nothing works and no one cares,” Sean Lynch, 33, told The New Daily.
Lead researcher Dr Sharron Davis claimed “conventional medicine” did not work for the majority of PTSD sufferers.
“With PTSD, people suffer for years and they try everything and a lot of people become desperate. They’re just waiting for something to help them.”
PTSD is the second most common mental health disorder after depression, and up to 800,000 Australians are estimated to be suffering from the disorder at any given time.
While cannabis has been used to treat PTSD sufferers in Israel, parts of the US and Canada, Dr Davis claims Australia’s perception of the drug is what has held back the trial of it locally.
“People still have a lot of bias towards the product because it’s an illegal drug,” Dr Davis said.
“It’s an incredible medicinal plant. It has been medicine for thousands of years. It was demonised in the ’60s and ’70s and we’re all suffering because of it. We‘ve lost an amazing medicine because of that.”
Currently, doctors can refer patients who are suffering from PTSD to the trial, in which researchers are seeking 300 participants.
Patients will be given 5 millilitres of oil, extracted from cannabidiol – the non-psychoactive part of the plant, referred to as CBD.
They will have to cover the treatment cost of up to $490, but Medicare rebates may apply.
The spokeswoman for health business BOD Australia, which is partnering with the clinic to deliver the trial, said patients need to have tried all other avenues before being referred.
“It’s only instances where other drugs have failed and conventional treatment has not been effective.”
Veterans to the front
A key demographic the trial is targeting is ex-servicemen and women who have a higher exposure to traumatic events.
Nearly half – 46 per cent – of veterans who left the Australian Defence Force experienced a mental disorder within five years of leaving, a government report into the impact of serving in the military revealed last year.
Sean Lynch, 33, worked as a Navy officer for 11 years before he was discharged in 2017 due to mental health issues related to his deployment in the Middle East and later, as part of border patrol in Australia’s northern waters.
“I’m in constant pain and nothing works and my doctors just give me more pills. I have a drawer full of them. They do nothing,” he said.
Mr Lynch said he was ‘cut off and cast out’ after his service, which led to drug and alcohol dependency, thoughts of self-harm and the breakdown of his marriage.
“The treatment is non-existent and people are in constant pain and feel hopeless and lost because the system has failed them and the Australian people just don’t care,” Mr Lynch said.
“‘Thanks for your service’ on Anzac Day is about all we get.”
After exhausting all other avenues, he said he would welcome the cannabis oil trial.
“I’d take anything I can at this point as nothing works and no one cares,” he said.