Demand for medical marijuana in Hervey Bay is soaring as the region’s only authorised prescriber records more than 270 patients since his clinic opened a year ago.
My Cannabis Clinic founder Dr Shahnur Rahman treated his first patient with medicinal cannabis in November 2019.
Now, Dr Rahman, who recently became an authorised prescriber of the drug, treats 271 patients from as far as Bundaberg and has 42 general practitioners referring clients to him.
Dr Rahman said the majority of the patients responded well to the alternative treatment, but there were a couple who experienced negative side effects like nausea and vomiting.
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“It’s still a drug that’s being tested so we don’t know the long-term side effects, but so far at my clinic it’s looking positive … no life-threatening side effects have been seen,” he said.
Dr Rahman prescribes medicinal cannabis in a variety of forms with either CBD, THC or a mix of both elements.
He said CBD was the non-psychoactive element and very gentle, whereas THC was a strong ingredient used for severe medical conditions and which doctors needed to control dosing.
Dr Rahman said what he prescribes to a patient depends on their condition and whether they are already heavy marijuana smokers.
“Some of our patients are only on CBD and some are mixed with THC as well,” he said.
“Some (inhale) the dry flower through a vaporiser which is legal and very effective.
“If someone is a very heavy smoker of cannabis … I need to go to the vape (because) if I start with the oil it will not work.”
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Many of Dr Rahman’s patients suffer significant pain and turn to medicinal cannabis as a last resort.
More than 42 medical conditions can be treated using medicinal cannabis including severe anxiety, depression, insomnia, PTSD, epilepsy, cancer-related pain and chronic pain not adequately responding to opioids or other analgesics.
It comes as Queensland records more medical marijuana prescription approvals than almost all other states combined.
There have been almost 34,000 approvals issued in the past four years, compared to 18,500 in NSW and 14,000 in Victoria.
Australian medicinal Cannabis Association general manager Gail Wiseman said the high number was likely due to more medicinal cannabis clinics being set up in the state.
As well as access to clinics, she said patients and GPs were becoming more open to the use of medical marijuana.
But Dr Rahman said more doctors and government subsidy were still needed, despite the monthly cost of the drug decreasing in the past year.
The average medicinal cannabis prescription used to cost between $300 and $500 a month, but now it is between $90 to $200 a month.
“The only reason it’s decreased is because of the competitive market,” Dr Rahman said.