A Drug A Day Keeps The Doctor Away?

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In 2016, Victorian Parliament passed the Access to Medicinal Cannabis Act 2016.

At the beginning of the year, Juanita Alvarez, 21, was diagnosed with two DCIS tumours in her breast and two tumours in her neck.

Whilst waiting for her surgery date to remove the tumours, she often experienced excruciating pain. Despite having doctor prescribed painkillers, Alvarez suffered an allergic reaction to the medication.

“I was on strong painkillers but had a really bad reaction to them. They cause severe nausea and diarrhoea”.

Juanita’s doctors at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness centre then prescribed her with Pharmaceutical Grade Cannabinoid to help relieve the pain.

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“The cannabis was 100% the most helpful medication in the lead up to my surgery. I had to wait a couple of months to be operated on and the pain was at times unbearable. The cannabis allowed me to relax and numb the pain.” 

Since her surgery, Juanita has ceased taking the drugs.

“When I came out of surgery they used morphine to relieve the pain. I do still have a prescription for Cannabinoid but I haven’t felt the need to refill it.”

Alvarez never saw the medication as an illicit drug nor took advantage of the script – it was a last resort.

Juanita, however, isn’t the only Australian turning to medicinal cannabis.

Olivia Newton Newton-John recently spoke out in support of medicinal drug use – revealing she too takes medicinal cannabis to help treat symptoms caused by breast cancer.

The Australian actress has battled cancer for years but has recently relapsed with her breast cancer spreading to her spine. 

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Speaking with Karl Stefanovic on 60 Minutes, Newton-John said the medicinal cannabis was assisted in helping treat pain and inflammation.

“It’s kind of a no-brainer. It’s compassionate. It’s kind. It’s what should be available for everybody to use”

“It’s been a maligned plant all these years and it really is a magical, miracle plant.” 

In Australia, cannabis is increasingly becoming more accepted by the community as a treatment. However, marijuana isn’t the only drug being adapted for medicinal purposes.

The Black Dog Institute at the University of New South Wales has found that Ketamine is effective in treating elderly patients with severe depression.

A team of researchers led by Professor Colleen Loo has begun conducting clinical trials of the medication in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and New Zealand.

Speaking to the ABC Prof Loo said the use of ketamine was revolutionary in treating depression.

“What we noticed was that ketamine worked incredibly quickly and incredibly effectively. After a single injection of ketamine, they could be completely well in a day.”

The trial was given the go-ahead in mid-2016 when the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) provided funding to trial the drug.

But with most young people having received years of intense education about the perils of drugs, many feel very wary about taking medicinal versions of illicit substances. We asked students at Deakin University if they could get over the stigma. 

While some fully supported the use others said that medicinal drugs should only be given on a case-by-case situation and that would only ever use it as a last resort.


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