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Getting a prescription for CBD Oil

In partnership with Dr Hamish Black

What do you need to know before talking to your doctor about a prescription for CBD Oil?

A person adding prescribed CBD oil to their tea.
A person adding prescribed CBD oil to their tea.

As the interest around CBD oil and medicinal cannabis grows in Australia, more people are turning to medical professionals for prescriptions. In just a few years, the number of Australians accessing medical cannabis through doctors has increased significantly from 1 in 50 to 1 in 5 people accessing medicinal cannabis with a prescription. 

And whereas there were just 144 doctors authorised to issue prescriptions for medicinal cannabis in 2019, figures from the University of Sydney suggest that number increased eleven-fold by 2022. 

So, with more medical professionals becoming equipped to prescribe CBD oil, and more Australians becoming interested in it as a form of treatment, how do you go about talking to your doctor about it?

Who can legally prescribe CBD oil?

Any accredited doctor in Australia can prescribe CBD products with the appropriate approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and your relevant state or territory’s Health Department. 

However, it’s not as simple as going to your doctor and getting a prescription to fill out at the pharmacy. Most medicinal cannabis products like CBD oil don’t appear on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG), so doctors need to go through different pathways to help patients access medicinal cannabis products. 

If your doctor deems it medically appropriate for you to use CBD oil or other medicinal cannabis products, they can access these products through the Special Access Scheme (SAS) or become an Authorised Prescriber. Alternatively, your doctor may refer you to another medical professional who is more experienced with medicinal cannabis treatments. 

The takeaway is that legal medicinal cannabis products like CBD oil can only be obtained with a prescription from your doctor if they think it could help your condition. Be careful about buying products labeled as ‘medicinal cannabis’ online because they may not be approved and could be harmful. If your doctor thinks it’s clinically appropriate to prescribe a medicinal cannabis product that isn't available in Australia, they'll need import permits from the Office of Drug Control (ODC).

What conditions do doctors prescribe medicinal cannabis for?

Data from the Australian government found that medicinal cannabis products like CBD oil were commonly prescribed for chronic pain, anxiety, depression, and cancer-related pain and nausea. However, there is limited scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of CBD oil in treating these conditions. CBD oil and medicinal cannabis should only be considered after approved treatments have been attempted and have not effectively managed your condition and symptoms.

Is CBD oil the right option for me?

Like with any treatment, talking to your doctor should be your first step when deciding if CBD oil or other medicinal cannabis products are right for you. 

Some Australians are using CBD oil as a last resort after finding that other forms of treatment weren’t working. If this sounds like you, having an open and honest discussion with your doctor should be your first step. If they agree medicinal cannabis is appropriate, they will need to decide which medicinal cannabis product to prescribe to you and then get any necessary government approvals. 

Medicinal cannabis is a relatively new treatment, so there’s not enough data about the correct ways to take it, dosages, side effects and how it interacts with existing medications. It’s essential that you consult your medical professional before self-prescribing.

How to have a conversation with your doctor

While medicinal cannabis is becoming more mainstream, some of us might still be a bit nervous about having a conversation with our doctor.

“Your doctor will be committed to finding the best treatment for you – they're on your side and will approach the conversation objectively, and without judgement,” says Dr Hamish Black, GP and nib group Medical Advisor.

When you speak with your doctor, the key is to be honest, open and describe your symptoms. They’ll listen and consider factors like your condition, lifestyle, health history, current list of medications and whether you’ve tried other treatments.

“If you’re unsure if CBD oil is right for you, or feeling a bit nervous about it, use the conversation with your doctor to ask them questions and learn more,” Hamish suggests. 

Hamish suggests asking your doctor the following questions:  

  • Can medicinal cannabis help my condition? 

  • Is it safe for me to use? 

  • Can I use it while I’m on other medications? 

  • What are the side effects? 

  • Will it affect my ability to work? 

What happens if my doctor says no?

Medicinal cannabis is still new, and as we’ve discussed there isn’t enough evidence to point to its effectiveness. For these reasons some healthcare providers may not feel confident or well-informed enough to recommend it. Getting a second opinion from another healthcare provider can provide you with peace of mind about a decision or allow you to explore alternative options for a diagnosis or treatment.

The rules and regulations around CBD oil

Though it has been legal since 2016, there are still strict regulations on administering and using CBD oil and similar cannabidiol products. The TGA has laid out a set of guidelines for the use of medicinal cannabis products, like CBD oil, and over-the-counter access to low-dose CBD oil products. On top of that, the laws vary depending on the state or territory:

For more information on the use of CBD oil and other medicinal cannabis products in Australia, visit the government websites: 

The information throughout this article serves as broad information and should not replace any advice you have been provided to you by your medical practitioner.  

Dr Hamish Black

Dr Hamish Black

In partnership with

Dr Hamish Black

Dr Hamish Black has been a medical practitioner for more than 25 years. In addition to his role as nib group medical advisor, he still spends two days a week practising as a GP. He has spent many years working in emergency departments and in rural Australia, including a stint with the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Hamish also loves karaoke and dancing (though not that well at either, he says!), with Play that Funky Music by Wild Cherry being his karaoke favourite.