The Northern Rivers of NSW is a region that’s long known the benefits of nature’s plants as medicine. Now, thanks to recent changes to the medicinal cannabis laws and progressive practices like Ananda, everyone can access these treatments in a modern, professional setting.
We chatted to Doctor Jamie Rickcord about his new clinic.
What inspired you to open Ananda Clinics?
‘Ananda has been a long-term goal,’ said Dr Rickcord. ‘I’ve always been fascinated by many of nature’s compounds as medicines and was never poisoned by stigma. I always saw through the “war on drugs” from when I was a teenager.
‘We’re reaching a place both in Australia and globally where cannabis and psychedelics are being proved to be far more effective than many “modern” medicines and as laws change and research continues it’s possible to share long held views and beliefs openly, with science to back it up, and more importantly as a doctor, be able to express these views in a balanced and open manner and begin to start working with these medicines legally.’
What’s Ananda’s overarching approach to health?
‘Integration. Calming the nervous system down, allowing the body to find a parasympathetic place and from there rest and heal,’ said Dr Rickcord.
‘Many modern diseases of the body and mind, or mindbody are being driven by unworked, unconscious material. Emotional trauma. The human body gets stuck in defensive patterns that although designed to help actually prevent healing.
‘Depression for instance can be viewed as a normal response to continued hyper-vigilance, a form of immobilisation,’ he said.
‘From the perspective of the polyvagal theory, it makes a lot of sense. So it seems obvious then that we need new methods to treat it over standard SSRI’s (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) or talk therapy.
‘Pain is the same. So, by looking at newer theories and methods, some available, some not yet, the Ananda approach is to integrate the whole, work through this difficult, dark and scary content we all walk around with and from there allow people to return to the present and live more fully.
‘We are all wounded humans. We need to recognise this first and from there, engage the body’s inner healer. Once that happens, things shift.’
For the uninitiated, what are cannabinoids and how do they work?
‘Phyto cannabinoids, or plant cannabinoids, work on a very complex biological system called the endocannabinoid system,’ explained Dr Rickcord. ‘This is our body’s master regulator; the conductor of many physiological processes and its goal is to keep humans balanced.
‘Well, actually, all vertebrates on planet Earth have an ECS (endocannabinoid system), so the cannabis plant is nature’s medicine – and actually, it’s essential for human health in many ways. So, we use these external cannabinoids to balance an internal system.’
What’s the biggest difference between what you’re doing now and back when you worked in a general practice?
‘That’s a big question. I have far more joy. Many of my patients are getting better and reducing the number of standard medications they use. I’m also studying psychotherapy, so this is also important in my methods,’ said Dr Rickcord.
‘Going back to the previous answer, part of the work is helping people understand how they’re keeping themselves stuck, often unconsciously, so bringing this unworked material into conscious awareness can really help.
‘Cannabinoids can also help us access this. In becoming calmer and more parasympathetically driven people, patients can open into their prefrontal cortex, so become far more aware and conscious of how their own belief systems may be limiting them and preventing them from getting better.’
What sort of conditions can medicinal cannabis help treat?
‘Chronic pain, anxiety, insomnia, movement disorders, migraines, PTSD, depression, MS, Parkinson’s, neuropathic pain, epilepsy…
‘The list is long and most chronic health conditions will qualify as long as first line treatments have been trialled. That is a condition set by the Therapeutics Goods Administration (TGA) and obviously in time we want cannabinoids to become first line treatments, but we are not there yet.’
If you could dispel one common misconception about what you’re doing, what would it be?
‘That it’s hard to access and expensive. Not so. Costs are less than the “green market” now, so people can access it legally and safely, and the more people that use this route the cheaper it becomes,’ said Dr Rickcord.
‘The TGA is also carrying out the largest observational trial ever in Australia; the more data they have the more likely we will see the access to these medicines improve.’
What drew you to Byron Bay and Habitat?
‘I’ve been on the North Coast in various spots for fifteen years. It’s home,’ said Dr Rickcord.
‘Habitat: the vision, the beauty of the design. This is a place where people look to the future and imagine the kind of society they would like to live in, and cannabinoid/psychedelic medicine is part of the society we all want to live in.’
When you’re not at work, where can we usually find you?
‘I’m always at work. I’m studying a masters and have just started Australia’s first course in psychedelic assisted therapy. If I am not doing that, I’m with my 3-year-old son, Miles, who is the most amazing human I’ve ever met, who also happens to be a master cuddler!’
What do people need to do to come and visit you?
‘They need to have a chronic health condition that has failed first line treatments,’ said Dr Rickcord. ‘There’s a lot of info on the website. We may need more information from a regular GP too.’
If you’d like to learn more, you can visit Ananda Clinics at Suite 56 at Habitat in North Beach Byron Bay, or jump on their website.