The Lambert Initiative has launched the latest edition of its Cannabis as Medicine Survey, CAMS22, predicting a big increase in the number of Australian patients.
According to the 2019 National Drug Strategy Household Survey, just 2.7% of the population (or about 600,000 people) were using cannabis for medicinal purposes.
But since then, prescribing doctor numbers and TGA approvals have grown considerably, while Lambert said Australians self-medicating with illicit cannabis will push the number even higher.
Academic director Professor Iain McGregor said: “There’s been a dramatic increase in the number of prescriptions issued for medicinal cannabis in the past two years. But we have good evidence that the number of people using cannabis to treat ailments is substantially higher than this.”
According to CAMS20 – which collected data from 1,600 anonymous users of medicinal cannabis between September 2020 and January 2021 – only 37% of respondents had received a legal prescription.
“If 63% of respondents in our 2020 survey were self-medicating with cannabis obtained illicitly, it suggests that the total number of people using cannabis for medical purposes is substantially higher than the official prescription figures indicate,” said CAMS lead Professor Nicholas Lintzeris from the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Medicine and Health.
“In order to have a true understanding of how cannabis is being used for medicinal purposes in Australia, we really need data from all users, not just those on prescriptions,” he added.
CAMS confidentially surveys Australians aged 18-plus who have used medicinal cannabis in the past 12 months and provides a snapshot of patterns of use, symptoms and conditions treated, methods of administration, source of medicine, and effects on health and driving.
“The CAMS22 survey will give us an important understanding of how medicinal cannabis use is evolving in the community as it becomes more mainstream,” said Professor Lintzeris.
“In order to better understand the impact and effects of medical cannabis, those using it need to be able to confidentially share their experiences, both legal and illegal.”
The survey, which will remain open until March 2023, can be completed here.