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By Miranda Wood, Health Reporter August 15, 2004 The Sun-Herald
Nearly two-thirds of people using marijuana for medical reasons had decreased or stopped taking other medications early, results of a State Government survey show.
The survey, an Australian first, was conducted by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre.
Participants reported cannabis was useful in preventing side effects caused by conventional medicines.
The most common medical conditions the cannabis users suffered were arthritis, chronic pain, depression, nausea, muscle spasms and weight loss.
More than 70 per cent were concerned about marijuana's illegality and 54 per cent were scared of being arrested, but were willing to take the risk for the benefits of the drug.
The centre's information manager, Paul Dillon, said: "Some say they believe that if they get caught it won't be that bad because they are using it for a medical condition."
Preliminary findings show that 70 per cent of those using medical marijuana would be willing to be involved in a trial of an alternative form of cannabis, such as a spray.
Mr Dillon said some believed a tablet or spray would be less effective than natural cannabis, but they wanted to experiment because of their concerns over smoking it.
He said a young man suffering fibromyalgia, a chronic illness causing muscle aches and fatigue, said in the survey: "I would rather risk being arrested than not being able to function in a normal state.
"The drugs that I take for pain are bad enough as it is. If cannabis helps and I can function a hell of a lot better, then I am going to use it and continue to use it."
Last year NSW Premier Bob Carr announced a trial of the therapeutic benefits of cannabis.
The survey was one of the recommendations of the NSW working party on the medical use of cannabis.
To participate in the mail-out survey, contact the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre on 9385 0333 or email Peter Gates at p.gates@ unsw.edu.au.