Differences in prescribed medicinal cannabis use by cannabinoid product composition: Findings from the cannabis as medicine survey 2020 (CAMS-20) Australia-wide study

PLoS One. 2024 Feb 14;19(2):e0297092. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0297092. eCollection 2024.


Introduction: Prescribed medicinal cannabis (MC) is an increasingly common prescription in Australia for treating pain, anxiety, and sleep disorders. Prescribed MC products generally contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and/or cannabidiol (CBD) in a variety of dose levels and forms. It is unclear whether THC and CBD products are used by patients with different characteristics and for different conditions.

Objectives: To examine consumer experiences of using THC- and CBD-containing prescribed MC products to better understand how they are being used within the Australian context.

Methods: We utilised data collected from an online anonymous cross-sectional survey of individuals (CAMS-20 survey), consisting of Australian residents using cannabis for therapeutic reasons. We focused on a subgroup of participants (N = 546) receiving prescribed MC products. We utilised linear, logistic, and multinomial regression modelling to analyse responses to survey questions based on the cannabinoid profile of the prescribed product.

Results: Participants prescribed THC-dominant MC products were statistically more likely to be younger, male, and to prefer inhaled routes of administration than participants using CBD-dominant products who were older, female, and preferred oral routes of administration. Pain and mental health were the most common reasons for all types of prescribed MC, but were more likely to be treated with THC than CBD despite the significantly higher risk of mild to severe drowsiness, dry mouth and eye irritation. Consumer reported effectiveness of prescribed MC was very positive, particularly for THC-containing products. Consumers on opioids and antipsychotics were statistically more likely to be prescribed THC-containing products than products containing CBD only, despite the greater risk of impairment.

Conclusions: This Australia-wide study found clear differences in consumer-reported experiences of prescribed THC- and CBD-containing products. Current prescriptions of these products do not always align with relevant clinical guidance. Educating prescribers around cannabinoid products is essential to ensure optimal prescribing practices and to prevent avoidable drug side effects and interactions.

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Cannabidiol*
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Agonists
  • Cannabinoids* / adverse effects
  • Cannabinoids* / analysis
  • Cannabis*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dronabinol / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Hallucinogens*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Marijuana* / adverse effects
  • Pain / chemically induced


  • Cannabinoids
  • Medical Marijuana
  • Hallucinogens
  • Cannabidiol
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Agonists
  • Dronabinol

Grants and funding

The authors received no specific funding for this work.