Cannabis and Cancer: Oncology News Q&A with Dr James Stewart

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Dr Stewart, who was recently awarded Australian Doctor of the Year and the People’s Choice Award at the 2021 Australian Cannabis Industry Awards, says demand for medicinal cannabis has spiked across the nation with more Australian’s turning to medicinal cannabis in droves due to struggles with pain, anxiety and mental illness.

We caught up with him for a quick chat about cannabis and cancer…

Can you please outline what cannabis products are available to cancer patients in Australia versus other countries?

Australia is now very lucky to have a very large range of medicinal cannabis products available. We are one of the front running countries in terms of giving access to cannabis products. Only Canada, Israel, USA and a few countries in Europe have more or equal range of medicines available.

What is the typical usage of cannabis based medicines for oncology patients? 

I have used a range of different cannabis products to help my cancer patients. CBD predominant products are fantastic for easing generalised pain, helping with stress and anxiety and also elevating mood. THC is a fantastic anti-nausea medicine which I use as a 50:50 combination with CBD to assist with nausea from chemo-therapy. THC can also be used to help with sleep and added to CBD for extra assistance with pain.

Is there a role in pain management as well as mental health support? 

As mentioned above, cannabis products have the benefit of not only being able to assist with pain but also at the same time help with anxiety, stress relief and can assist with elevating mood.

Let’s look at changing in the process of access and whether we should consider decriminalising cannabis products for general use – what are your thoughts and vision for the future?

This is a tricky one. CBD, no doubt, should be made available over the counter. It is generally extremely well tolerated with very minimal side effects and only a few contraindications.

THC on the other hand has potential to be abused which can lead to issues. At daily moderate levels THC is fine to help with things like sleep, however if someone is using high dose THC daily, especially through inhalation methods, then this can lead to down regulation of our natural endocannabinoid system. From this, the person can develop some dependency and also some mental health issues like severe anxiety and paranoia.

However, like with all things, I don’t think we can be a Nanny State and should trust that people won’t abuse it so I think there is definitely some merit in the push for legalisation.

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