Medicinal cannabis (also called medical marijuana) is a medication derived from a substance called Cannabidiol (CBD) which is found in cannabis plants. Although medicinal cannabis is derived from a natural source, it should still be considered a MEDICATION, that is, it must be prescribed by a doctor and is not without side effects. Epidyolex is an oral cannabis medication containing Cannabidiol that has had the psychoactive components of cannabis removed. It has recently been approved on the PBS for usage in Dravet Syndrome.
Usage, indications for, and access to trials of medicinal cannabis should be discussed with your treating neurologist.
For other pathways to obtain medicinal cannabis approved by the TGA, you should discuss this with your treating neurologist.
Potential side effects of medicinal cannabis include:
- Sleepiness / drowsiness
- Fatigue / lack of energy
- Decreased appetite
- Upper respiratory tract infection
- Increased seizures
- Elevated liver enzymes
It is important that children taking medicinal cannabis are regularly monitored by their usual treating paediatric neurologist to ensure that levels of other medicines are appropriately managed. There may be significant interactions between medicinal cannabis and other anticonvulsants, for example:
- Sodium valproate
- Regular monitoring of liver function and drug interactions by the child's treating doctor is important.
- Street cannabis (or artisanal products) are not regulated and may contain pesticides and the psychoactive components of cannabis.
- Use of 'street cannabis' by adolescents can cause psychiatric and mental health problems, impaired decision making, and have long-term cognitive impact.
The information provided in this handout is limited and does not replace the need for a medical consultation. It is very important you speak to your doctor about all aspects of your medication including side effects when medication is first prescribed. Report any concerns to your doctor promptly.