Approx. three out of every four Australian women suffering from endometriosis are turning to illicitly cannabis to ease painful symptoms despite.  The finders come from a recent study conducted by researchers from Western Sydney University surveyed women with endometriosis in New Zealand and Australia.  While it is extremely positive that those survey self-reported positive outcomes, it is clear we are a long way from achieving #EqualAccess given the women surveyed still believe the black market is their best option.

What is Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a condition where the tissue that lines the walls of the uterus grow outside of the uterus, commonly affecting the ovaries, fallopian tubes and the lining of the pelvis.

Endometriosis can physically manifest in a range of ways, including:

  • Painful periods (dysmenorrhea)
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Pain during bowel movements or urination
  • Excessive bleeding during menstruation
  • Infertility issues
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Bloating
  • Nausea, especially during menstrual periods

Although research is limited on what causes endometriosis, some risk factors have been identified. They include:

  • Never giving birth or pregnancy
  • Commencing menstruation at a young age
  • Going through menopause later than normal
  • Menstrual cycles that last less than 27 days
  • Heavy menstrual periods that last longer than seven days
  • Having higher levels of oestrogen in your body or a greater lifetime exposure to oestrogen your body produces
  • Family history of endometriosis
  • Medical conditions that prevent the normal menstruation
  • Reproductive tract abnormalities

Why Cannabis for Endometriosis

Preliminary research conducted in New South Wales suggests that cannabis may be effective in managing the adverse symptoms of endometriosis - namely pain, insomnia, nausea, anxiety and depression. Australians who use cannabis to manage their endometriosis self-reported experiencing less intense pain and improved sleep quality.  Further, of those surveyed in the Western Sydney University also self-reported it being effective for pain, as well as other associated symptoms such as poor mental health (anxiety and depression), sleep, gastrointestinal upset and nausea and vomiting.  So why are women relying on an unreliable black market when there is legal medicinal cannabis available?

The Barriers to Female Access

Legal Repercussions

There is a mass misconception that accessing medicinal cannabis or, in fact, even seeing a cannabis doctor is processed removed from one’s general practitioner experience.  The reality is that all legal products must first be approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).  Further, all consultation are as private as any other visit to the doctor, as is one’s prescription and medical use.  Of course, given the scheduling of the product, a patient must be aware of the driving laws in their particular state and are advised to align with their Human Resources department if they are employed by a company that conducts ‘drug’ tests.  But “no”, there are no legal ramifications for simply being prescribed medicinal cannabis.

Unwillingness of Doctor/Judgement from Society

This barrier is more of a hangover from yesteryear than a legitimate concern.  Starting with the medical industry, we are close to reaching a tipping-point where the overwhelming number of doctors accept the science and embrace the efficacy of cannabis for the treatment of a plethora of conditions, including and especially endometriosis.  Further, the global culture has shifted in such a way that the public opinion in the majority of western countries is for the legalisation of cannabis on a national level.  This position is amplified by the countless number of athletes, artists, doctors, politicians and thought-leaders advocating for the plant’s efficacy.

Price

As always, price is a consistent perceived barrier for cannabis patients when considering making the move from the black market to safe, legal, regulated medicinal cannabis.  A fear that, until very recently, was well founded.  2022 is shaping up to be the year that legal medicinal cannabis achieves price parity with the black market.  Companies such as Elevated Extracts are leading the charge in this space with their #EqualAccess campaign which aims to provide the highest quality product at the same prices one would expect to pay on the ‘street’.  Further, many companies are now offering compassionate discounts.

Take Away

It is a positive step forward that women are able to mitigate the suffering that comes with endometriosis; however, a safe, legal, affordable and stigma-free path must become more obvious.  This can and will be achieved through fair pricing, public education and clinical trials.

If you or a loved one are suffering from Endometriosis and are considering medicinal cannabis as a potential treatment, please speak to your GP or to one of our SAS accredited doctors here.