People taking medicinal cannabis will need to be given advice about the potential long-term side-effects, an expert says.
Dr Michael Farrell, director of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, says the report on which the Victorian Government’s decision was based was “very well crafted and detailed presenting a balanced view of current research evidence and presents options for moving forward and for improving access to treatment”.
“However if medical use is likely to be long term, patients should be advised that the adverse effects of long term use are unclear,” he says.
Patients could also be advised of the adverse effects reported in long-term recreational users, such as the development of dependence.
“Many doctors will be faced with patients using cannabis for complex symptoms of multiple chronic disabling conditions for which there are limited treatment options,” says Dr Farrell.
“Doctors should discuss, in a dispassionate and non-judgmental and supportive manner, the advisability or otherwise of using cannabis to palliate such symptoms.
“There is no clear evidence for effectiveness in treating pain, any benefits are likely to be modest, and there is no clear evidence that putative benefits outweigh possible harms.
“When symptoms of cannabis dependence are elicited it is appropriate to discuss the wisdom of continued use in the context of the illness and the prognosis, and, if appropriate, to offer the patient support for withdrawal.
“Helping patients who wish to use cannabis for symptomatic relief to live as comfortably and productively as possible is an important and valuable goal of palliative and rehabilitation treatment.”