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Why three quarters of endometriosis patients still access medical cannabis illegally

72 per cent of Australian and 88 per cent of New Zealand patients reported self-administering cannabis.



High levels of medical cannabis use have been recorded among endometriosis patients.

Three quarters of endometriosis patients who access medical cannabis still do so illicitly, according to new findings from Australia. 

A new study from researchers in Australia has revealed that three quarters of endometriosis patients who reported using medical cannabis, access it via the legacy market. 

Researchers exploring the role of medical cannabis in the treatment of endometriosis say that while many patients report positive outcomes for cannabis in managing symptoms of the condition, many are using it without their doctor’s supervision.


Endometriosis is a complex and difficult to manage condition, affecting one in 10 women in the UK. 

It occurs when the lining of the uterus (the endometrium) grows outside of the uterine cavity in other areas of the body, most frequently involving the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and pelvic lining, however it can affect any of the organs in the body.

The primary symptoms are pelvic pain before and during menstruation, pain during sexual intercourse, nausea, fatigue, and infertility. 

High levels of medical cannabis use have been recorded among endometriosis patients, with many reporting its efficacy in reducing pain and other symptoms, including sleep, nausea and vomiting.

The findings

Researchers led by Justin Sinclair surveyed over 200 patients with an endometriosis diagnosis in Australia and New Zealand, to examine legal versus illicit cannabis use, their understanding of access and their interactions with healthcare professionals. 

Results showed that 72 per cent of Australian and 88 per cent of New Zealand patients reported self-administering cannabis illicitly.

Only 23 per cent of Australian and six per cent New Zealand respondents accessed cannabis through a doctor’s prescription, despite it being available legally in the countries. 

In addition, around 20 per cent reported not disclosing their use of cannabis to their doctor, citing concern over “legal repercussions”, “societal judgment”, or their “doctors’ reaction and presumed unwillingness to prescribe” medical cannabis. 

Researchers stated that the potential consequences of using cannabis without medical supervision were of  “particular concern” and recommended the need for improvements in doctor and patient communication.

They concluded: “While evidence for a substantial substitution effect by cannabis was demonstrated in these data, of particular concern are the clinical consequences of using cannabis without medical supervision, particularly with regard to drug interactions and the tapering or cessation of certain medications without that supervision. 

“Improving doctor and patient communication about MC use may improve levels of medical oversight, the preference for legal MC adoption over acquisition via illicit supply and reducing cannabis-associated stigma.”

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Sarah Sinclair is a respected cannabis journalist writing on subjects related to science, medicine, research, health and wellness. She is managing editor of Cannabis Health, the UK’s leading title covering medical cannabis and CBD, and sister titles, Cannabis Wealth and Psychedelic Health. Sarah has an NCTJ journalism qualification and an MA in Journalism from the University of Sunderland. Sarah has over six years experience working on newspapers, magazines and digital-first titles, the last two of which have been in the cannabis sector. She has also completed training through the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society securing a certificate in Medical Cannabis Explained. She is a member of PLEA’s (Patient-Led Engagement for Access) advisory board, has hosted several webinars on cannabis and women's health and has moderated at industry events such as Cannabis Europa. Sarah Sinclair is the editor of Cannabis Health. Got a story? Email / Follow us on Twitter: @CannabisHNews / Instagram: @cannabishealthmag


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