Cannabis has been used to ease acute and chronic pain symptoms for more than 5,000 Years. This is because it can relieve pain with very few side effects – especially when compared to stronger pharmaceutical painkillers.
A growing number of countries are legalizing medical marijuana, and consumers demand is increasing as more patients realize the potential benefits.
What is the current legal, medical and regulatory status of cannabis in Malta?
Since February 2018, Malta has legalized medical cannabis. Before that, the law in force in February 2018 allowed only registered pharmaceutical products, such as Sativex, to be prescribed. This was in contrast to the 2015 law which only allowed them to be prescribed by psychiatrists, oncologists, neurologists, and anesthetists.
Since May 2018, patients have been able to access medical cannabis only after all doctors are allowed to prescribe it. The first products to import that contain raw cannabis flowers produced under Good Manufacturing Practices were introduced around May 2018. Since then, hundreds of patients have gained access to medical marijuana through a small group of family medicine doctors. While most doctors in Malta have refused to prescribe medical cannabis, some advise patients against it.
When pharmaceutical medications have failed to work or caused side effects, medical cannabis is usually prescribed for chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia. It is commonly prescribed to cancer patients as it can ease nausea, vomiting, and reduce side effects. It can also help with anxiety and insomnia. Medical cannabis is often prescribed to patients who have other medical conditions.
To obtain medical cannabis, patients must be evaluated by a registered doctor at the Medical Council. A patient must have a chronic medical condition and conventional medicine has not been prescribed. If the patient meets the eligibility criteria, a Superintendent of Public Health is notified. There, the doctor will declare that they are fully responsible for the patient’s treatment. After thorough screening by the Superintendent and background checks to see if the patient has been to any drug detoxification programs in the past they will be approved. They are then permitted a 30-day trial. If the trial goes well the doctor can request a six months approval from Superintendent. Patients can then obtain medical cannabis from authorized pharmacies.
The person who is caught with one cannabis plant may be able to fight the charges in court, as they claim it is personal use. However, more cannabis plants or indications that it may not be for personal use could land them in jail.
As the variety of medical cannabis products grows, prices will fall. Patients will also have more options and will likely be able to get their medicine cheaper.
What benefits can medical cannabis bring to chronic pain management?
Chronic pain, which affects 20% in Europe, is a very common and debilitating condition. Unfortunately, only a few drugs can effectively relieve chronic discomfort. They also often have side effects that can further complicate the condition. Recent research indicates that chronic pain is caused by dysfunction in the endocannabinoid. Chronic pain sufferers often have a genetic predisposition that is linked to dysfunctional endocannabinoid systems. Patients suffering from chronic pain are often affected by the loss of homeostasis and abnormal neurotransmitter levels.
THC (or CBD) and CBD (or both) are powerful therapeutic compounds found in medical cannabis. They can help to restore balance to the endocannabinoid process and reduce chronic pain symptoms. Full-spectrum medicinal cannabis preparations include more than THC or CBD. They also contain terpenoids and flavonoids that further enhance the synergistic effect. This produces a powerful therapeutic effect not explained by individual cannabinoids. This is known as the entourage effect.
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Medical cannabis is very effective in relieving pain and improving mood. Patients experience remarkable improvements in their quality of life and many patients feel reborn or given another chance to enjoy the good things in life. Medical cannabis gives disabled patients the ability to regain their lives by helping them manage their conditions better than any medication they have ever tried.