In 2016, the federal Narcotic Drugs Amendment Act 1967 was amended to allow doctors to legally prescribe medical cannabis to patients with specific health conditions through the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) Special Access Scheme.
However, there hasn’t been a huge uptake in doctor’s prescribing cannabinoids, with many potential patients unclear of how to access prescriptions.
Dr Jamie Rickcord has just opened Ananda Clinics in Byron last week, and believes most doctors aren’t informed and that patient demand in a few years will see them prescribing medical cannabis as common practice.
It’s something he is passionate about seeing happen. ‘I hope in that time, I will be out of business because everyone will be prescribing.’
Originally from London, Jamie moved here about eight years ago. He formerly worked at the Lismore Base hospital before going into practice as a GP.
Jamie started investigation into integrative plant medicines and cannabinoids because he wanted to find treatments that he believed actually worked.
‘I find opiates virtually impossible to deal with now,’ he says. ‘While some of the pain killers out there are very good – people don’t take responsibility for the other things they need to do to fix their pain. It becomes a false sense of security. Diet and exercise are part of practices that can help. The bio-medical model will say that it’s all in your head, but that’s not the way to deal with it. People just want to take a tablet and be instantly fixed. I realised there is a better way.
‘A lot of conventional approaches put people in a fight or flight mode, so that physiological responses don’t allow for healing and how to improve connections. If you take them into a parasympathetic response, they heal slowly.’
Rest, digest and heal
‘The ethos is: Rest, digest and heal. The body won’t heal while it feels it is being attacked – so many humans are living in that place where they haven’t dealt with old traumas, and that ramps up cortisol and adrenalin and doesn’t allow the body to improve.’
Dr Rickcord believes that cannabinoids provides a more wholistic approach to healing, including processing trauma.
‘We all think intergenerational trauma applies just to Indigenous communities, but it apples to vast swathes of society. Many think they had a perfect childhood, but years later, you discover how that has impacted on you.’
Mental health issues are one of the areas the TGA will approve for prescription of cannabinoids.
‘The TGA has approved cannabinoids for use in certain medical conditions that have had to last for more than three months. They include anxiety, depression, chronic pain, cancer pain, nausea from chemotherapy, ADHD and autism.’
Jamie believes that the community uptake of such a powerful and natural drug has been slowed by the narratives around marijuana and weed culture.
‘We have to change the narrative around these medicines. This is not marijuana or illegal drugs for recreational use. Cannabinoids are highly potent pharmaceutical grade medicines, grown and produced under medical conditions.’
‘The science is catching up with what we have always known – there are people doing fantastic research around the planet and who are proving this is an amazing treatment. We are still breaking through this false narrative that this is nasty or bad. The propaganda around the war on drugs has made us think drugs are bad. But look at what alcohol does – it’s totally acceptable!’
Jamie is also chairman of the Byron Bay chapter of the non-for-profit Mind Medicine – who lobby for the introduction of MDMA and psilocybin to treat mental health disorders.
Some of these treatments for trauma-related illness have been shown to be significantly more effective than existing pharmaceuticals.
Jamie believes the government and the health industry are ethically obliged to provide medicines that work.
The introduction of these medicines, however, will have an impact on the pharmaceutical industry.
‘These curative medicines have nothing to do with big pharma. A whole new era of medicine needs to be born.’
Jamie has set up a clinic in Byron because he believes when it comes to health, we are proactive in seeking more engaged and natural approaches.
Working with cannabinoids and plant medicine is not quick.
‘It’s slow extraordinary change – it’s not a quick fix,’ says Jamie. ‘It takes weeks and months sometimes.
‘Everyone is different’. Everyone’s endocannabinoid [biological] system is different. We start with low doses, and titrate it to find out what works for them. Some of the patients I work with have stopped using opiates altogether.
‘The industry-wide expression is start low, go slow.‘
A pharmacy in the Byron Industrial Estate has come on board to provide Jamie with access to the prescriptions needed for patients.
The Ananda Clinics are located at Suite 8b, 9 Fletcher Street, Byron Bay.
For more info visit Ananda Clinics or call 56 245 024. Telehealth appointments and socially distanced consults are available.