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A good night's sleep, thanks to cannabis oil

Garry Linnell has tried cannabis oil for the first time, and so far, he's a fan. Picture Shutterstock

I swallowed a dose of cannabis oil a little over half an hour ago. So please, stick around. I'm hoping things might get interesting in the next few minutes.

Fed up with constant lower back pain, sleepless nights and woozy painkillers, I decided last week to join several hundred thousand other Australians and give medicinal cannabis a try.

The process was simple enough. Registering with one of the growing number of online clinics only took a few minutes.

The following day, after a thorough 30-minute video consultation with a GP who outlined the risks (there is no legal exemption for medicinal cannabis in random drug-driving tests), a prescription for a vial of oil was express posted to my home.

I wasn't planning to drive today or tomorrow, anyway. Hunched behind a steering wheel with an aching back ensures I perform a decent impersonation of a question mark for hours. So I'm going to sit here and find out if there is any truth to all the hype about medicinal cannabis.

Two friends, including one who struggled with anxiety and sleep disorders for years, swear by the stuff. They're not alone. Almost 3000 years ago the so-called father of Chinese medicine, Emperor Shen Nong, boasted that cannabis seeds improved blood flow and energy, although he did warn that ingesting too much "may make one behold ghosts and frenetically run about".

Boosted by pandemic lockdowns and the rising popularity of telehealth services, Australia's burgeoning seven-year-old medicinal cannabis market (more than one million prescriptions have already been issued) is expected to be worth almost $150 million by the end of this year and more than $1 billion annually by the end of the decade.

It doesn't come cheap. A 50ml bottle cost $170 and, unless you're a member of a select few private health funds, there is no subsidy on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

Fifty minutes have passed since I dropped 0.5ml under my tongue. I'm definitely feeling more relaxed. A trick of the imagination or not, the oil I've taken is a combination of CBD - the active ingredient derived from marijuana - and THC, the major psychoactive component that gives users a high and often acts as an appetite stimulant.

So far, so good. There's a slight warming sensation in my back but no sense I'm about to become stoned or launch a sudden raid on the pantry.

According to the Therapeutic Goods Administration, the vast majority of medicinal cannabis prescriptions are used for chronic pain ailments, followed by anxiety, sleep disorders and the treatment of cancer pain.

While some doctors say scientific evidence corroborating the pain relief properties of cannabis remains inconclusive, and are concerned it is becoming too easy to obtain from profit-driven cannabis clinics, many studies indicate it plays a significant role in altering our perception of pain.

Research also suggests it may alleviate symptoms of neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's as well as arthritis, migraines and glaucoma. Earlier this year, Australian scientists completed a rigorous clinical study proving medicinal cannabis was an effective treatment for the persistent vocal and physical tics caused by Tourette syndrome.

But beyond science lies the social stigma of marijuana - a hangover from a century ago when Australia, under pressure from the Prohibition-era United States, outlawed its use. The ACT decriminalised possession of small amounts three years ago and draft legislation has been introduced in three states - Victoria, NSW and WA - to allow personal use. But the odds remain slim in the short term of Australia following the lead of dozens of countries and the majority of American states by legalising recreational marijuana.

Still, medicinal use is a start. Like many Australians I've sampled the illegal version - a few experimental joints as a teenager and a delicious weed muffin made by a friend years ago that left me sleeping like a baby. I'm not looking for that high, although the creativity it can generate is to be envied. I just want relief.

It's now been almost two hours since I took the oil. I'm warm and, at this late stage of the day, my back no longer aches as much. I could do with a good lie down, actually. Excuse me while I...

THE NEXT MORNING: Well, that was something. I woke briefly at 3am and went straight back to sleep. I never felt stoned but I was definitely more serene than I've felt in weeks. And my back? It still aches. But it no longer feels like I'm carrying the world on my shoulders. More please. Originally published here:

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