New research shows women desperate for endometriosis pain relief find cannabis more effective than prescribed medication.
Researchers from Otago University surveyed 213 women who have used cannabis to alleviate the pain from their endometriosis. Of those, almost 80 percent were current users and the majority of those who had stopped did so because it was illegal, or they couldn't find a supplier.
None had stopped because it was ineffective at controlling their symptoms.
The majority of those surveyed (96 percent) used cannabis for pain relief and to improve sleep and 81 percent reported that their symptoms were "much better" for pain.
More than 60 percent said they were less nauseous and vomited less.
Study co-author Dr Geoff Noller says the study suggests traditional medicines are not meeting people with endometriosis' needs, as some 81 percent of people surveyed said they had reduced their medication - and half reported stopping completely.
"This could be for a variety of reasons including both that cannabis may be more effective in managing some of the patients' symptoms and also possibly that it has less negative side effects than some prescribed medications, for example opioids, which are recognised as having negative effects as well as a significant potential for physical dependence."
He says cannabis "should at least be considered" as an option for treatments.
"Research could be directed at health professionals concerning their knowledge and views about medicinal cannabis."
However, legal medicinal cannabis products in New Zealand are prohibitively expensive - the only formally approved cannabis-based medicines available in New Zealand - Sativex - costs more than $1000 for a month's prescription.
Dr Noller says this could contribute to patients seeking other options, including illicit cannabis products.
He hopes legislation pending in April will facilitate access to a wider variety of cannabis-based medications.
"Health practitioners will need to develop a greater understanding of medicinal cannabis options, to be able to advise patients about both the pros and cons of these medications."