What Role Can Medical Cannabis Play In Addressing The Mental Health Repercussions Of The Pandemic? Hint: A Big One!

By: Tommy Huppert – CEO, Founder at Cannatrek

A few years back I met a first responder at an international trauma conference. The meeting stuck with me for the simple fact that when I told him what industry I was in, he responded “I wish I could use cannabis to help manage my stress, but first responders get drug tested, so it’s not an option. I could lose my job.”

I recall this encounter as I contemplate the many people affected by the repercussions of the COVID pandemic, together with the ongoing lockdown situation in Melbourne, Australia – those suffering from stress, anxiety, diminished health and mental wellbeing. Health workers and first responders are most obviously the front line, but they’re not alone. In this pandemic, our collective front line includes education, transport, essential service and logistical workers. Some of us are in lockdown at home and others are working double-overtime. We have all been stretched beyond our limits one way or another, as we wade through our first worldwide pandemic.

Psychological support workers have been inundated. As has Cannatrek’s hotline. The rise in stress levels, depression, anxiety, sleeplessness is very real and recognised. International experience reveals that the COVID 19 virus can have negative health aftereffects for many people, now known as long COVID.

I’ve heard a lot about the problems, from lowered productivity to increased hospitalisations.

I haven’t heard enough about the solutions.

The problem doesn’t simply disappear when physical freedoms return.  Vaccinations are no cure for the psychological effects of the hidden traumas being experienced which can appear at any time. Long COVID is a condition that we are only beginning to understand.

In the absence of a road map for managing the longer-term psychological and mental health implications of the COVID pandemic, I want to step forward on behalf of the cannabis industry to offer some hope. Medical cannabis companies provide regulated products available and authorised for therapeutic use. Medical Cannabis can legally be prescribed by any doctor in Australia for eligible patients. 

A good night’s sleep goes a long way to mitigate stress and anxiety in many people’s lives.

With increasing real-world evidence, such as that being collected through the Cannatrek personal monitoring app about to be launched, our knowledge on how best to individualise cannabis treatment is being refined. We have resources at our fingertips.

I’m looking forward, as much as the next person, to ending the lockdowns. But there is bigger problem at hand. Let’s not wait until after the direct health crisis has waned to start remedying the secondary fallout of the pandemic on people’s health and wellbeing.

My company and many others are ready and waiting to assist doctors, patients and governments in managing immediate and longer-term consequences of this pandemic on people’s wellbeing using our knowledge of cannabis therapy.

The medicinal cannabis industry is right here, sitting on the bench, waiting to be called up. So to all Australian healthcare professionals out there – put us on the field. We’re built for this.

Sustainable Cannabis Is Transforming The Industry

By: Tommy Huppert – CEO, Founder at Cannatrek

Australia’s new policy of net zero emissions by 2050 is not just a moral ambition but a seismic economic and cultural shift. All industries will have to adapt previous practices to the new world order which will have a high emphasis on circular economy, innovation for sustainability as well as ethical investment. Those who are slow to jump on the wagon will be dragged behind it.

In the cannabis industry we are (again) poised to lead the field for a number of reasons:
  1. 1. Our investments have often involved long term thinking, seeing the bigger picture rather than just short-term gains.
  2. 2. As relative newcomers, adaptation and change is less burdensome. We have overcome many barriers in actualising our vision and we are resilient.
  3. 3. The cannabis industry and innovation are already good friends.
  4. 4. Working with the miracle of plants, many in our industry hold a relatively high sense of responsibility to mother nature.

In practice this means the cannabis industry, from growers to product manufacturers, need to not only mitigate, but transform any harmful aspects of our industry, like soil degradation, waste disposal, energy costs and packaging.

Here’s how the transformation can look. Cannatrek is launching its Shepparton operation which ticks all the boxes. The Shepparton operation is energy independent, aiming for 100% renewables. Relying on a mix of clean solar energy and future energy hydrogen, pollutants like diesel are stored as back-up only, so we have completely upended the energy equation.

We implemented a circular economy in the facility by taking side-products and waste for reuse and producing plant-based packaging. The pharmaceutical industry has a long way to go to convert from its religious reliance on single use plastics.

Plants replacing plastics is the future, but hemp cellulose-plastic is in fact not new. Diverse use of the ancient cannabis plant is undergoing a much needed renaissance. If in 1941 Henry Ford had already investigated the ways that hemp could be used in the production of a motor vehicle, then in 2021 it could and should have been in widespread use and saved us countless environmental damages.

Location is essential for sustainability. From transport to soil use, the implications for the planet of not just what and how we grow, but where we grow cannot be understated. Access to rain water and clean water for agricultural production was the reason to build our new facility in the Goulburn Valley, the fruit capital of Australia.

As a cannabis industry leader in Australia, we have built sustainability into our business model from day one.

But where does that leave us in relation to the global cannabis market?  World leaders are increasingly on the same page and the commitments that many countries have taken to the UN Climate Summit called COP26 will translate into national policies across the globe, for example by including emission costs and penalties in international trade agreements.

I feel lucky to be in Australia where we have the ability to jump on the wagon early and teach others how it’s done. We’re not perfect but we’re getting there.

The Multiple Sclerosis Landscape and Plant Therapy-Based Clinical Trials

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that is characterized by nerve damage that disrupts communication between the brain and body. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society estimates that there are more than 2 million individuals living with multiple sclerosis around the world. The prevalence of multiple sclerosis is highest amongst women, individuals living in areas far from the equator, and those between the ages of 20 and 50 years old.

The Multiple Sclerosis Landscape 

Unlike many other conditions, the underlying cause of multiple sclerosis is unknown. What is known is that in the case of multiple sclerosis, the immune system attacks the fatty substances that protect and coat nerve fibers throughout the spinal cord and brain, known as myelin. When myelin is damaged, it exposes the internal nerve fibers and causes messages traveling through those nerves to become blocked or delayed, resulting in a wide spectrum of different symptoms and ailments.

Within the multiple sclerosis landscape, four disease courses have been identified: clinically isolated syndrome (CIS), relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS), primary progressive MS (PPMS), and secondary progressive MS (SPMS). Each of these defined disease courses is characterized by specific criteria, resulting in various symptom sets for each patient.

Signs of Multiple Sclerosis

Some of the most common symptoms of multiple sclerosis include but are not limited to the following.

  • Vertigo
  • Imbalance
  • Numbness and tingling in the face and/or extremities
  • Weakness
  • Double vision
  • Bowel and bladder Issues
  • Pain
  • Concentration issues

Sometimes other less common symptoms can occur, including paralysis, seizures, hearing loss, speech issues, tremors, and blindness.

When Should You Seek Help for Multiple Sclerosis? 

If you or a loved one are experiencing any or a combination of the signs and symptoms listed above, and have been experiencing them for a prolonged period of time on a consistent basis, it is highly recommended that you seek evaluation from a medical care provider. If you have experienced vision loss, paralysis, acute numbness or tingling, or double vision that has been consistent for several hours, it is essential that you seek medical help immediately.

How Is Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosed?

Seeing how there are no specific laboratory or radiology tests for diagnosing multiple sclerosis, doctors must rely on eliminating other possible conditions that are known for producing symptoms similar to that of MS. This type of diagnosis is known as a differential diagnosis, which is completed through an examination of your medical history and a physical exam. After these are performed, doctors commonly also request blood tests, MRIs, and spinal taps, among other potential tests, to further solidify a proper diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. For those that have previously been diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS, the diagnosis is fairly straightforward as it is based on a pattern of symptoms consistent with that seen in the past and can easily be confirmed by brain imaging scans, such as MRI.

The Endocannabinoid System & Multiple Sclerosis

The body’s endocannabinoid system plays an essential role in our body’s overall well-being. According to research, it appears that cannabinoids may also play a pivotal role in the treatment of multiple sclerosis.

According to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, & Psychiatry, cannabinoid-based extracts provide significant efficiency in decreasing muscle stiffness and body pain as well as increasing sleep quality in MS patients.

A study published in the European Journal of Neurology one year earlier concluded that spasticity levels within patients were significantly lower in those given cannabis extracts in comparison to those given placebo.

Traditional Treatments for Multiple Sclerosis

While there is no known cure for multiple sclerosis, there are a wide variety of treatments that are often employed to provide patients with a better quality of life. These treatments include medications, physical therapy, lifestyle changes, and alternative medicines. The most common medications prescribed to those with MS include corticosteroids, interferon beta medications, muscle relaxants, medications to reduce fatigue, and medications for accompanying symptoms such as pain, depression, insomnia, and sexual dysfunction.

Plant Therapies for Multiple Sclerosis Clinical Trial Synopsis 

Currently, researchers with BOD Australia are recruiting patients that have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis for an open-label observational study of safety and efficiency utilising pharmaceutical-grade cannabis medicine for various indications. Learn more about this clinical trial and register your interest here.

To see if you are eligible for plant-based therapies, you can book a telehealth appointment with one of our specialist doctors through Cannatrek Access.

The Opioid Landscape and Plant Therapy-Based Clinical Trials

Statistics published in 2021 by the UNSW Sydney National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre noted several statistics surrounding drug-induced deaths in Australia for 2019. These findings concluded that of all drug-related deaths in Australia, 61% of them were a result of opioids. For the past two decades in Australia, opioids have been listed as the primary drug cited in drug-related fatalities. In 2019, opioids were the underlying cause of over 1,100 deaths, with nearly 900 of them being unintentional.

The Opioid Consumption Landscape 

The opioid consumption landscape is a frightening one worldwide. For several years countries, cities, and other municipalities have faced an opioid epidemic. Many of the world’s large manufacturers of opioid-based pharmaceuticals such as oxycodone have been the center of lawsuits over the past two decades.

According to a study published in 2021, there are currently ten opioids that have been approved in Australia by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, encapsulating more than 120 different formulations. This study noted that between 1997 and 2018, the number of patients being prescribed “strong opioids” increased 11-fold from nearly 28,300 patients to 332,307 patients. The number of medical practitioners prescribing opioids in Australia also quadrupled during that time.

Similar statistics can be seen in the US where, in 2020, nearly 143 million prescriptions were written for opioids. However, at the height of the epidemic in the US in 2012, 81 opioid prescriptions were written for every 100 people.

How Opioids Work and Why They Present a Risk

Opioids are commonly prescribed for pain management. Unfortunately, they have been proven time and time again to be highly addictive, habit forming, and extremely dangerous. This is because of how opioids work. For opioids to provide the pain-relieving benefits that they are prescribed for, they attach to proteins on nerve cells throughout the body known as opioid receptors. These receptors are common in the brain, gut, and spinal cord, along with other parts of the body. When opioids bind to these proteins, they block pain signals that are being sent from the body to the brain via the spinal cord. Because opioids directly affect signaling within the spinal cord and brain, they can have drastic effects on, among other things, our ability to breathe, and when taken in abundance, can lead to fatality through respiratory distress when these receptors become overloaded.

Signs of Opioid Overconsumption and Addiction

Common signs of opioid overconsumption or opioid overdose include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Altered mental state such as extreme delirium or confusion
  • Breathing issues
  • Loss of alertness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Unresponsiveness

Signs of opioid addiction include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Abandoning responsibilities
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety and/or depression
  • Consumption of opioids for euphoria rather than prescribed intention
  • Lower motivation
  • Mood swings
  • Poor decision making

When Should You Seek Help for Opioid Consumption? 

When utilised as prescribed for short periods of time, opioids offer substantial benefits. However, with prolonged use, misuse, and overconsumption, there are many risks to consuming these pharmaceuticals. If you experience any of the signs and symptoms of opioid overconsumption as listed above, it is highly advisable that you seek medical evaluation immediately. Aside from fatality, overconsumption of opioids can lead to a wide variety of other medical issues that can cause long-term damage.

The Endocannabinoid System & Opioid Consumption

Within the body, there is a system known as the endocannabinoid system that includes cannabinoid receptors that work with cannabinoids produced by the body naturally, as well as those found in cannabis and hemp plants. Just as opioids attach to receptors, cannabinoids do the same to cannabinoid receptors in a very similar manner. However, an overload of cannabinoids to this system will not cause respiratory or other potentially fatal issues.

Numerous studies have looked at the efficiency of cannabinoid therapies for reducing pain and have provided very positive conclusions. Not only does it appear that cannabinoids may be able to provide pain-relieving properties to patients, but it also appears that the utilisation of cannabinoids may help to reduce opioid intake in chronic opioid users.

A 2020 article published in the Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research Journal set out to determine how cannabis may be able to be utilised as an alternative or in conjunction with opioid treatment for intermittent and chronic opioid users. The study concluded the following:

“In this long-term observational study, cannabis use worked as an alternative to prescription opioids in just over half of patients with low back pain and as an adjunct to diminish use in some chronic opioid users.”

An analysis published in Med Page Today noted a correlation between the number of cannabis dispensaries available for access and a reduction in opioid-related fatalities. This included a 17% reduction in opioid fatalities where access to cannabis dispensaries increased.

Traditional Treatments for Opioid Overconsumption and Addiction

If an opioid overdose occurs, medications such as naloxone are often administered as they have been proven to reverse the effects of opioids. Additionally, if breathing is impaired, many times, breathing machines are employed. In the event of opioid addiction, there are several different types of therapies that can be employed. Most often, patients work with rehabilitation professionals in order to detoxify their bodies of opioids. This often includes the gradual discontinuation of opioids, opioid replacement therapy, and counseling to address underlying concerns that could be causing the addiction. In cases of chronic opioid addiction, sometimes patients are prescribed other narcotics to help promote sleep, dull the senses, and help with pain.

Plant Therapies for Opioid Consumption Clinical Trial Synopsis 

Researchers with Murdoch University and the Perth Pain Management Centre are currently recruiting patients with chronic non-cancer-related pain for a study that will look at the efficiency of medicinal cannabis in relieving pain. You can learn more about this study or register your interest learn more about this study or register your interest here.

To see if you are eligible for plant-based therapies, you can book a telehealth appointment with one of our specialist doctors through Cannatrek Access.

The Tourette Syndrome Landscape and Plant Therapy-Based Clinical Trials

Tourette syndrome (TS) is considered to be a neurodevelopmental disorder. This condition is characterized by repetitive involuntary movements and sounds known as tics. According to the CDC, it is estimated that one out of every 162 children worldwide have TS. In Australia, it is estimated that as many as one in every 100 school children may live with this condition, either diagnosed or undiagnosed. Other statistics suggest that approximately one in every 200 adults in Australia also live with Tourette syndrome. 

The Tourette Syndrome Landscape 

Tourette syndrome is a condition that often develops in early childhood and tends to affect men more prevalently than women. In many cases, symptoms of TS can improve naturally with age, and for some, they can completely go away. While some individuals with TS may only have motor-based tics, others will experience motor and vocal tics. These typically come in uncontrollable repetitive movements or actions such as clearing the throat, blinking eyes, or moving body parts swiftly. For those that also experience vocal tics, they are most commonly experienced through vocally blurting outwards unintentionally. Although there are no known cures for Tourette syndrome, when tics do not naturally go away with age and are uncontrollable to the point where they interfere with daily activities, treatment options are available that have shown great success.

Signs of Tourette Syndrome

The most common sign or symptoms of Tourette syndrome are motor and/or vocal tics. These can be seen in various actions, such as the ones listed below.

Motor Tics

  • • Mouth twitching
  • • Shrugging of shoulders
  • • Excessive blinking
  • • Involuntary arm or head jerking

Vocal Tics

  • • Swearing
  • • Sniffing
  • • Shouting
  • • Repeating words of others
  • • Clearing throat
  • • Barking or yelping
  • • Grunting

When Should You Seek Help for Tourette Syndrome? 

If you or a loved one are experiencing a combination of the involuntary actions listed above or have noticed an increase in their occurrence, it is advisable to seek medical consultation. TS can be very interruptive to your daily life, but there are treatment options available that may offer substantial help.

How Is Tourette Syndrome Diagnosed?

There are no defined tests available to definitively provide a diagnosis of Tourette syndrome; however, blood tests and imaging studies such as MRIs can be helpful in ruling out other conditions that may be causing related symptoms. Certain criteria must be met to provide a diagnosis of TS. These typically include the occurrence of motor and vocal tics that occur nearly every day multiple times and have done so for more than a year. With TS, tics appear before the age of 18, so for patients experiencing relatable symptoms over the age of 18, symptoms could be related to a different condition or a reaction to medications. These are all things that your doctor will take into consideration when providing a diagnosis of Tourette syndrome.

The Endocannabinoid System & Tourette Syndrome

The exact cause of Tourette syndrome is unknown. This complex disorder is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Additionally, it is widely accepted that neurotransmitters—chemicals in the brain such as dopamine and serotonin that are responsible for transmitting nerve impulses—also play a vital role.

Within the brain’s basal ganglia exists a high concentration of endocannabinoid receptors. Research suggests that when cannabinoids such as THC and CBD from cannabis and hemp plants bind to those receptors, the result may be decreased involuntary movements. Science suggests that cannabinoids provide this effect by helping to regulate neurochemicals such as dopamine and serotonin. A highly referenced 1998 research study from Germany concluded that when TS patients consumed cannabinoid therapies, 82% of participants reported significant improvement, with one patient going into remission for over a year.

Traditional Treatments for Tourette Syndrome

Traditional treatments for Tourette syndrome include various therapies and medications. Doctors will commonly prescribe medications to block or decrease the production of dopamine, which has been shown to help control tics. Additionally, the use of Botox injections, ADHD medications, antidepressants, and anti-seizure medications may be employed. For those that experience severe tics, deep brain stimulation, also known as DBS therapy, may sometimes be recommended. This type of therapy involves implanting a medical device in the brain that delivers electrical stimulation to areas within the brain that are responsible for controlling movement. This is an experimental treatment and is often avoided with the exception of severe cases. It isn’t uncommon, however, for Tourette syndrome patients to undergo behavior therapy, psychotherapy for a combination of both.

Plant Therapies for Tourette Syndrome Clinical Trial Synopsis 

Currently, researchers at the University of Sydney in collaboration with the Lambert initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics are recruiting TS patients for a double-blind placebo-controlled crossover clinical trial. This trial will employ the utilization of THC and CBD and will take an in-depth look at their effect on TS-based vocal and motor-based tics. You can learn more about the study and register your interest here

To see if you are eligible for plant-based therapies, you can book a telehealth appointment with one of our specialist doctors through Cannatrek Access.

The Dementia Landscape and Plant Therapy-Based Clinical Trials

Dementia is a general term used to describe a set of symptoms characterized by the deterioration of cognitive function. Dementia tends to develop later in life, mostly affecting the elderly. The World Health Organization estimates that there are nearly 10 million new cases of dementia each year and more than 55 million people living with it worldwide. According to statistics from Dementia Australia, there are an estimated 472,000 people living with dementia in Australia, a number that is expected to increase to over 1 million by the year 2058. Of those living with dementia worldwide, women outnumber men two to one.

The Dementia Landscape 

The loss of cognitive and psychological functions is due to the loss of or damage to nerve cells and their connections within the brain. Where this damage occurs can highly influence the different symptoms experienced by patients. There are various known forms of progressive dementia, with Alzheimer’s disease being the most common. Alzheimer’s is an irreversible, age-related brain disorder that is thought to develop over a period of years.  There are also other forms of dementia, such as frontotemporal dementia, vascular dementia, and Lewy body dementia. Each of these types of dementia is characterised by its own set of cognitive and behavioral issues.

Signs of Dementia

While with every patient the exact symptoms of dementia may differ, some of the most common symptoms and signs of dementia include changes in cognitive and psychological aspects. Below you can find a list of the most common cognitive and psychological changes that may be signs of dementia.

  • Personality changes
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Difficulty with reasoning, problem solving, or handling complex tasks
  • Loss of coordination
  • Increased disorientation or confusion
  • Increased memory loss, often noticeable by outside parties

When Should You Seek Help for Dementia? 

If you feel that you or a loved one may have dementia or are experiencing a combination of the symptoms listed above, it is highly advisable to seek medical consultation. When experiencing these symptoms, it is important to determine the cause as quickly as possible as they may be due to medical conditions that can be treated. In the case of dementia, however, there is unfortunately no known cure at this time.

How Is Dementia Diagnosed?

To diagnose dementia, a doctor will have to thoroughly define the pattern of a person’s deterioration of function and skills as well as determine a person’s current abilities. To make an accurate dementia diagnosis, doctors may perform cognitive and neuropsychological tests as well as brain scans, psychiatric evaluations, laboratory tests, and neurological evaluations. Thankfully due to progression in research surrounding Alzheimer’s disease (AD), biomarkers are starting to become available to help provide a more accurate diagnosis.

The Endocannabinoid System & Dementia

There have been several studies that have concluded that the endocannabinoid system plays a major role in neuropathology, neurobiology, and neurotransmission of dementia. A review of clinical and preclinical data surrounding cannabinoids and dementia concluded that there are “several lines of evidence that have demonstrated the role of cannabinoids in dementia.” This review also urged the need for pursuing the use of cannabinoid compounds in the field of dementia treatment. A study titled “Targeting the Endocannabinoid System in Alzheimer’s Disease” concluded that “Inflammation and oxidative stress are generally accepted as a critical risk factor for the development of AD, and intervention such as cannabinoids that attenuate these risks without arresting microglial activity and have innate neuroprotective benefits are attractive as potential preventative treatments for AD.”

Traditional Treatments for Dementia

Traditional treatments for dementia include medications such as cholinesterase inhibitors that boost the levels of chemical messengers within the brain that increase memory and judgment functions, as well as memantine and other medications to address common accompanying symptoms and conditions such as sleep issues, hallucinations, agitation, and depression. Sometimes therapies such as occupational therapy will be employed in addition to modifying the patient’s environment and simplifying their daily tasks.

Plant Therapies for DementiaClinical Trial Synopsis 

Currently, researchers at the University of Notre Dame are recruiting individuals that have been diagnosed with dementia for a randomised, double-blind, crossover placebo-based clinical trial that will investigate the effects of medicinal cannabis on behavioral symptoms in dementia patients. To learn more about inclusion criteria or to register your interest in this clinical study, see the official details here.

To see if you are eligible for plant-based therapies, you can book a telehealth appointment with one of our specialist doctors through Cannatrek Access.

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The Anxiety Landscape and Plant Therapy-Based Clinical Trials

Statistics released in 2018 estimated that 3.2 million Australians had an anxiety-related condition. The World Health Organisation estimates that one in three individuals globally suffer from an anxiety disorder, making it the most common mental disorder in the world.

The Anxiety Landscape 

The anxiety landscape is vast; anxiety disorders encapsulate a wide variety of phobias as well as specific types of anxiety. The most common anxiety disorders are generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder (SAD) or social phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Phobias of specific objects, animals, and situations are also categorised under anxiety disorders.

Signs of Anxiety

Considering the vast list of conditions that fall under the category of anxiety disorders, it is easy to see that the symptoms and signs of each of these anxiety disorders can drastically differ. Below is a list of some of the most common signs and symptoms of anxiety disorders.

  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Trembling
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Excessive worrying
  • Agitation
  • Unexplained irritability
  • Sleep issues
  • Easily fatigued
  • Sweating

When Should You Seek Help for Anxiety? 

If you or a loved one have been experiencing a combination of the above symptoms for a prolonged period of time, it’s highly recommended you seek medical consultation. If the symptoms have been interfering with your relationships, creating persistent sleep issues, affecting your ability to concentrate and complete daily tasks, or keeping you from doing the things you enjoy, you should seek medical guidance immediately.

How Is Anxiety Diagnosed?

It may take some time to properly diagnose anxiety disorders. In order to pinpoint and provide a diagnosis, doctors will need to complete a complete physical exam to rule out any illnesses that may be causing your symptoms. Once medical professionals have ruled out any underlying medical conditions as a potential cause for your symptoms, it is likely that you will undergo one or several diagnostic tests. Some of the most common diagnostic tests utilised to provide an anxiety disorder diagnosis include the following.

  • Zung Self-Rating Anxiety Scale
  • Hamilton Anxiety Scale (HAM-A)
  • Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI)
  • Social Phobia Inventory (SPIN)
  • Penn State Worry Questionnaire
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder Scale
  • Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale (YBOCS)

Each of these diagnostic tests are questionnaires and self-assessment tools that will help doctors provide a proper diagnosis. Many types of anxiety disorders have their own specific criteria that must be met in order for a diagnosis to be given.

The Endocannabinoid System & Anxiety

The body’s endogenous cannabinoid system, also known as the endocannabinoid system or ECS, has been proven to play a vital role in many of our body’s functions. When it comes to its role in regulating anxiety, it seems to be a love-hate relationship. Many anecdotal reports show that specific varieties of cannabis can help to relieve anxiety-related symptoms; however, others can accelerate them, like adding gas to a fire. Like with many plant therapies, including cannabinoid therapies, the results can drastically differ from one patient to the next. Here is what research has to say thus far.

A 2018 Australian study showed that 92 of 1,748 participants saw improvement of anxiety symptoms utilising cannabinoid therapies. In 2019, a study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research showed similar results, with 92% of respondents reporting improvement in their anxiety symptoms with the use of cannabinoid therapies. Additionally, in a 2007 animal-based study, researchers concluded that THC exhibited dose-dependent effects on anxiety, with the maximum anxiolytic effect corresponding to the highest dosage of THC.

Traditional Treatments for Anxiety

Standard treatments for anxiety disorders include medications and psychotherapy. Many individuals who have been diagnosed with anxiety disorders work with a therapist to help reduce and manage their anxiety-related symptoms. It has been found that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most effective at treating anxiety. Anti-anxiety medications typically come in the form of sedatives, beta-blockers, or benzodiazepines. In some circumstances, antidepressants may also be utilised to treat anxiety disorders.

Plant Therapies for Anxiety Clinical Trial Synopsis 

Currently, BOD Australia is recruiting patients with various health conditions, including anxiety, for an open-label observational study of the safety and efficiency of pharmaceutical-grade cannabis medicine for various indications. Learn more about this clinical trial or register your interest here.

To see if you are eligible for plant-based therapies, you can book a telehealth appointment with one of our specialist doctors through Cannatrek Access.

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The PTSD Landscape and Plant Therapy-Based Clinical Trials

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD for short, is a widely known disease with high prevalence in countries around the world. While in the past PTSD was most often associated with military personnel, our understanding of this mental health condition is much greater today. According to the majority of available sources, including Psychology Today, the prevalence of PTSD is much higher among women than men. Current statistics estimate that PTSD affects 2.1%-2.3% of the global population, and according to Phoenix Australian, there are over one million Australians, or an estimated 4.4% of the AU population, living with PTSD at any point in time.

The PTSD Landscape 

PTSD comes in three primary subtypes. These include Complex PTSD, Comorbid PTSD, and Dissociative PTSD. Each of these three types of PTSD is characterized by its own unique set of symptoms, prevalence, and risks. 

Signs of PTSD

PTSD results from living through and surviving a traumatic event. However, each subset of PTSD also has its own underlying triggers. According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common symptoms and signs of PTSD include but are not limited to the following.

  • Intrusive memories which may include recurrent and unwanted memories of a traumatic event, flashbacks, nightmares, or dreams of the event
  • Avoiding discussion regarding the event as well as places, people, and activities that may remind a person of the traumatic event
  • Feelings of hopelessness and detachment
  • Difficulty maintaining close relationships
  • Recurrent negative thoughts
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Concentration and/or memory issues
  • Easily frightened and/or startled
  • Aggressive outbursts of anger and constant irritability

When Should You Seek Help for PTSD? 

The severity and intensity of symptoms associated with PTSD can greatly vary between individuals. They can also greatly vary for an individual from one day to the next and sometimes even from one moment to the next. If you have lived through a traumatic event and have experienced disturbing feelings or thoughts surrounding it for more than a month, it is highly advised to seek medical help.

If you have suddenly developed severe symptoms or they have become increasingly more severe over time, it is also advisable to speak to a mental health professional. If at any time you feel suicidal, it is essential that you reach out to a mental health professional, friends, loved ones, a spiritual leader, or a trained counselor through resources such as Lifeline Australia, which offers 24-hour suicide prevention and crisis resources via phone text and online chat.

How Is PTSD Diagnosed?

In order to diagnose PTSD, a medical professional will have to complete both a mental and physical exam. During the evaluations, professionals will look at things such as the type of event that was experienced and the individual person’s response. Doctors will also look at how the events are being re-experienced within daily activities and what is causing that to occur. An extensive look at personal history is also essential to see how an individual has coped after a traumatic event, as well as how they have coped with the memories that come with it. Understanding just how long symptoms have been present, as well as any change in severity and frequency, is essential in diagnosing PTSD.

The Endocannabinoid System & PTSD

Plant therapies are essential to the health and functionality of our body’s endogenous cannabinoid system, commonly known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This system contains receptors throughout organs and tissues in our bodies that work with plant compounds to help regulate many functions within our anatomy. A study from 2020 showed that a low dose of THC resulted in a significant reduction of fear and anxiety among PTSD patients facing scenarios formulated to trigger these responses. This shows that THC may be able to help lower threat-related amygdala reactivity in PTSD patients.

Additional studies have shown that plant compounds are able to stimulate CB1 receptors within the ECS, helping to improve a process known within animal studies as extinction learning. Extinction learning is essentially the belief that old memories of a specific scenario can be overridden with new memories through exposure time and time again. This process does not occur within the brains of those with PTSD. It is believed that through plant therapies, this process may be able to be triggered within PTSD patients similar to how it was within animal studies.

Traditional Treatments for PTSD

Traditional treatments for PTSD include medication such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety formulations. The main focus of PTSD treatment, however, is therapies that confront the memories and triggers of the survived event and processes by which to overcome them. Some of the most common trauma-focused cognitive behavior therapies recommended for PTSD patients are Prolonged Exposure (PE), Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), and Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy.

Plant Therapies for PTSDClinical Trial Synopsis 

It is easy to find stories of individuals attributing their ability to overcome PTSD to plant therapies. To date, the research available from countries worldwide surrounding plant therapies in the treatment of PTSD has proven to offer much hope.

BOD Australia is currently conducting an observational study and is actively recruiting individuals that have been diagnosed with PTSD for a study looking at the use of high CBD and low THC medicinal cannabis and how it affects PTSD symptoms. Learn more about this study and register your interest here.

To see if you are eligible for plant-based therapies, you can book a telehealth appointment with one of our specialist doctors through Cannatrek Access.

The Cancer Landscape and Plant Therapy-Based Clinical Trials

Cancer is a disease that has affected almost everyone in one manner or another. Cancer can be defined as a disease of the cells. Specifically, cancer is when abnormal cells grow in an uncontrolled manner. These cells cause damage to surrounding tissues and can spread to other parts of the body, resulting in more damage.

The Cancer Landscape 

There are over 100 various types of cancer that are commonly named after the organs or tissues in which cancer first formed. Some of the most common forms of cancer that you may have heard of include breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, melanoma, lymphoma, and leukemia. According to the World Cancer Research Fund, in 2018 there were an estimated 18 million cancer cases globally. According to the Australian Cancer Council, cancer is the leading cause of death in Australia, with more than 150,000 new cases diagnosed in 2020 alone. That same year, just under 50,000 individuals in Australia lost their lives to cancer.

Signs and Symptoms of Cancer

The specific signs and symptoms of cancer will vary drastically depending on the area of the body affected. In general, however, there are several common signs and symptoms of cancer that everyone should be aware of. According to Cancer Institute NSW, five of the most common signs and symptoms of cancer include the following:

  • Unusual Lumps or Swelling
  • Fever
  • Unexplained Aches and Pains
  • Unexplained Weight Loss
  • Severe Fatigue or Extreme Tiredness

When Should You Seek Help for Cancer Symptoms? 

Health Direct suggests that if you notice any changes in suspected cancer symptoms, you should seek immediate medical attention. The success of treating cancer highly depends on how early it is detected. If you have been experiencing any of the above symptoms for more than two weeks or notice a sudden change in the severity of any symptoms, it is also recommended that you speak with your doctor right away.

How Is Cancer Diagnosed?

When it comes to diagnosing cancer, it can sometimes take time and several different tests to receive an accurate diagnosis. Because cancer can grow slowly, sometimes it can be present for months or years before causing any symptoms. Various tests can be utilized to diagnose cancer, depending on your specific symptoms and their location on your body. These tests include blood tests, MRI scans, ultrasounds, X-rays, and CT scans. If these tests reveal anything of concern, your doctor will likely take a small sample of the affected tissue using a procedure known as a biopsy to examine it further in a laboratory. The biopsy helps doctors learn more about the type of cancer and how aggressive it is within the body.

The Endocannabinoid System & Cancer 

Plant therapies work with the body’s endocannabinoid system to assist with many functions within our anatomy. According to the University of Newcastle, Australia, “Laboratory tests conducted at the University of Newcastle and Hunter Medical Research Institute have shown that a modified form of medicinal cannabis can kill or inhibit cancer cells without impacting normal cells, revealing its potential as a treatment rather than simply a relief medication.”

There have also been numerous research studies conducted around the globe that have proven cannabis’ efficacy in relieving many of the common signs and symptoms associated with cancer and cannabis is effective at relieving symptoms without the side effects of traditional treatment. In 2019, researchers at Amity University in India conducted a detailed scientific review of the literature surrounding the effects of cannabinoids on various cancer types and discovered the following.

Plant compounds such as THC and CBD can “exert potent [anti-growth] activity and activate various apoptotic mechanisms eventually leading to cell death.” This was found in studies surrounding glioma, an aggressive form of brain cancer.

Another study in their review found that when cancer cells were treated with synthetic versions of endocannabinoids, they activated receptors that killed cancer cells.

Additionally, a clinical trial researching the utilization of cannabinoid therapies in patients with recurrent glioblastoma multiforme showed that those treated with cannabinoid therapies had a higher one-year survival rate of 83%, which is much greater than the placebo group at 53%.

Traditional Treatments for Cancer

Most commonly, cancer is fought with one or a combination of the following treatments:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiotherapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Hormone Therapy
  • Surgery to Remove Cancerous Tissue
  • Stem Cell Transplants

In addition to the therapy utilised in hopes of killing the cancerous cells and tissues, many cancer patients are also prescribed a plethora of other medications to address the side effects and symptoms of cancer and the treatments employed to fight it. These often include antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications to help with the mental health issues one may experience after a cancer diagnosis and while undergoing treatment, in addition to pain medications, nausea medications, and other types of medication.

Plant Therapies for CancerClinical Trial Synopsis 

The utilisation of plant therapies such as cannabis in the treatment of cancer and its various symptoms and side effects has been widely documented in anecdotal studies of success and scientific research for many years. The majority of research available today offers much hope for plant therapies in the treatment of various cancers. Currently, researchers at the University of Newcastle are recruiting patients for an interventional open-label study on the use of medicinal cannabis in advanced cancer patients. The eligibility requirements for this study include the following.

  • 18 years or older
  • A confirmed advanced cancer diagnosis
  • A predicted life expectancy of 6 to 12 months at the time of consent
  • Persistent symptoms of nausea, anorexia, or refractory pain that have not been responsive to standard treatments
  • Participants must be willing and able to comply with all requirements set forth by the study agreement
  • Any participants capable of childbearing must use adequate contraception

To learn more about the study and to register for eligibility, check out the official details in the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry here.

To see if you are eligible for plant-based therapies, you can book a telehealth appointment with one of our specialist doctors through Cannatrek Access.

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The Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome Landscape and Plant Therapy-Based Clinical Trials

 

The World Health Organization reported in 2018 that an estimated 3 million deaths result from harmful use of alcohol, representing 5.3% of all deaths worldwide. Alcohol is the underlying cause of many different diseases, and it is estimated that 5.1% of the entire global burden of disease is attributed to alcohol. But the harm drinking alcohol can cause doesn’t stop just by ceasing its consumption; alcohol can still cause harm even after an individual abstains from alcohol. Alcohol withdrawal is a condition that can result from abruptly stopping alcohol consumption after prolonged periods of heavy use. 

Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome

When excessive alcohol consumption is abruptly stopped, withdrawal symptoms can begin to appear as quickly as a few hours, but commonly within the first day after the patient’s last drink. The most common signs of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome (AWS) include the following.

  • Anxiety
  • Decreased Appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Restlessness
  • Sweats
  • Tremors

In severe cases, some individuals also experience elevated heart rate and blood pressure, confusion, delirium, and, in an estimated 15% of cases, seizures also occur. The onset of alcohol withdrawal is more prevalent in individuals who drink several drinks daily and those who drank daily for at least two consecutive weeks.

When Should You Seek Help for Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome?

If you or a loved one experience severe confusion, heavy sweating, racing heartbeats, violent shaking, hallucinations, the sensation of bugs crawling on your skin, seizures, or delusions, it is essential that you seek medical assistance immediately. The symptoms can be a sign of a condition known as delirium tremens, which typically starts within the first 48 to 72 hours after drinking has ceased. It is estimated that 5% of individuals that suffer from alcohol withdrawal develop delirium tremens. Of those individuals, it is estimated that 5%-25% of these cases result in fatality.

How Is Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome Diagnosed?

To diagnose Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome, your doctor will review your medical history, perform a physical exam, and ask you about your symptoms and alcohol use. The doctor may also perform a toxicology screening and ask you a series of questions that are a part of the Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment of Alcohol, which utilizes a scale to measure the severity of 10 different symptoms. This assessment, also known CIWA-Ar, reviews the severity of symptoms such as agitation, headaches, nausea and vomiting, sweating, tremors, visual/audio disturbances, and more.

The Endocannabinoid System and Alcohol Withdrawal

The body’s endogenous cannabinoid system has been attributed to helping balance many functions within our bodies through cannabinoid receptors found in tissues and organs throughout our anatomy. Cannabinoid receptors such as CB1 receptors are devastated when alcohol is introduced into the body. Alcohol consumption greatly reduces the prevalence of these receptors and also increases the production of GABA and dopamine within the brain. Introducing cannabinoids such as CBD and THC may help to bring balance to the brain’s chemistry and increase the prevalence of these vital receptors within our bodies.

A 2017 study published by the University of British Columbia in Vancouver concluded that nearly half of all medical cannabis consumers that participated in the study applied for medical cannabis cards in order to substitute the natural alternative of cannabis for alcohol. According to a 2014 study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, cannabis can also work as a neuroprotective agent to protect the brain stem from damage already caused by alcohol consumption.

Traditional Treatments for Alcohol Withdrawal

When Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome is diagnosed, it is most often treated with either home care or hospitalization. Both of these can include a combination of medications and therapies. In the case of hospitalization, in many instances, the patient will have to be administered IV medications and fluids to prevent dehydration. Whether at home or in the hospital, many individuals diagnosed with AWS will be prescribed sedatives such as benzodiazepines, including Ativan, Xanax, or Valium.

Additionally, patients may receive medications to help with symptoms such as headache, nausea, and vomiting, fever, and lower blood pressure. The most beneficial treatment for AWS, however, is the abstinence of alcohol consumption. In some cases, patients may have to seek out addiction centers in order to be able to overcome AWS and abstain from alcohol when their home environments do not support sobriety.

Plant Therapies for Alcohol Withdrawal Clinical Trials Synopsis

Currently, the University of Sydney is recruiting participants for a double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial to explore the effectiveness and tolerability of CBD for the treatment of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome symptoms in an in-patient setting. This randomized clinical trial will include 52 participants. Inclusion criteria for this study states that you must be between the ages of 18 and 65 years old. You must have had at least one prior episode that lasted for two days or more in which you experienced withdrawal symptoms that caused incapacitation, or a prior instance of medical detoxification in which withdrawal symptoms were exhibited.

To be included, you must have a history of consuming at least eight alcoholic beverages per day for a two-week period prior to enrollment in the study. You must also be willing to give written informed consent to participate in the study and have adequate cognition and English language skills in order to give valid consent and complete the research interviews. There is also an extensive list of exclusion criteria that can prevent you from participating in this study. If you are interested in participating in this study, check out the full details and register your interest.

To see if you are eligible for plant-based therapies, you can book a telehealth appointment with one of our specialist doctors through Cannatrek Access.