Why are women with endometriosis opting for black market cannabis?

10th January 2022

A survey found that almost three-quarters of women with endometriosis in Australia source cannabis from the illicit market. This is likely because of the stigma that continues to accompany the substance – even though they could potentially access medical cannabis legally via their doctors.

According to a new study, women suffering from endometriosis – a long-term condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows in other places, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes – turned to the black market to ease their painful symptoms. It is estimated that one in nine women has endometriosis in Australia.

Researchers at Western Sydney University found that 72% of the women surveyed with the medical condition use cannabis illicitly in New Zealand and Australia.

In a recent report, Israeli researchers announced that they would test cannabis-based pharmacological products that are believed to have active ingredients that might be able to ease painful medical conditions, such as dysmenorrhea, endometriosis, or painful menstruation.

Endometriosis often takes six to 10 years to be properly diagnosed and there is no guarantee that current treatment options will ever work.

The number of women turning away from the legal medical cannabis market in Australia – where medical cannabis was legalised in 2016 – is somewhat concerning.

As 7 News reports, while cannabis is accessible for those in great pain on paper, it is still not considered a primary option in Australia. Cannabis can only be considered if all the other options are exhausted.

Chief Scientific Officer with the Australian Natural Therapeutics Group and lead author Justin Sinclair said the stigma around the substance is real; this is potentially why women with endometriosis may not be accessing cannabis treatment through legal channels.

Mr Sinclair said: “A number of factors, including concern surrounding possible legal repercussions, judgement from either their doctor or society or their doctors’ presumed unwillingness to prescribe legal medicinal cannabis were the main reasons for not talking to their doctor.

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

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