Medical cannabis is set to become available, with a prescription, within a matter of months.
Doctors will be able to prescribe the treatment soon after home secretary Sajid Javid was advised by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs that it has proven benefits.
Over the last decade several high-profile campaigns have captured widespread media attention. This ‘hype’ has triggered a wave of public sympathy, understanding and support.
Previously campaigners had questioned how patients could be treated without the drug, however, studies show that severely epileptic children could see huge benefits from doses.
Medicinal cannabis has been proven to help patients who suffer day-to-day with epilepsy, MS, cancer and other serious conditions.
As the UK moves to legalise medicinal cannabis the country’s policies and drug control measures will move closer to that of other countries, such as Canada, Holland, Portugal and the majority of the US.
American and medical marijuana user Erin Rose Priddy, 28, spoke frankly about her own medication, explaining what British patients can expect to experience.
She chose to look into treating her medical needs this way after feeling like there was no other viable choice.
“I chose medical cannabis because I was given a choice of having surgery to remove a cyst on my pineal gland, along with the gland itself in my brain, and be on pharmaceuticals that caused severe adverse reactions in me for the rest of my life, or become a part of the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program.
I chose medical cannabis because the research of its use in treating seizures, severe weight loss, convulsions, and pain were very promising, especially in comparison to the adverse reactions the pharmaceutical options offered.
Thus far, I have experienced a lot of benefits from medical cannabis use on a daily basis.
I had a sudden onset of seizures and severe migraines that caused a host of other issues. I could not eat, sleep, or function at all due to the symptoms and issues related to my condition. I was having clusters of seizures multiple times a day all day, every day. I tried taking pharmaceuticals and they aggravated the situation. Where most of the glitches or seizures that I was having would not make me fall to the floor, the pharmaceuticals aggravated the situation, and caused me to fall. I got to the point that I could not speak clearly, and could not see out of my left eye due to inflammation in and on my brain. After going to my doctor and getting my part of the paperwork, finger printing and passport photo done and filed at the dispensary, it took about 90 days for my card came in the mail.”
The independent author and poet lives in the state of Illinois where medical cannabis is not a prescription medication but a program in its pilot phase. As the British program will require Erin also needs to qualify for the treatment. She explained:
“The only thing that your doctor does is file the paperwork to the government stating that yes you, the patient, have this condition from the list of qualifying conditions, and may benefit from the use of medical marijuana. That is it. From there you, the patient, have to research what you are buying, how it works, what the recommended uses of the product are, etc.”
Due to the way this program is set up, cannabis is not a prescription. Erin explained that no one saying: “Hey, you need to smoke three half gram joints a day. The first needs to be a Sativa. The second a Hybrid, and the third should be an Indica”.
“Take the first one when you wake up. Start out with a hit or two, then if you need more, smoke more. Use the hybrid at lunch time. Again, start out with just a hit or two, and as you need more, smoke more. The Indica is for night time medicine, so use it around supper time or bed time, depending on if you need it to eat or to sleep. They aren’t even saying, “Okay, you don’t want to smell like cannabis, then use an edible or concentrate”.
Her own experiences are shared on her vlog ‘Nature’s Healing Rose‘ aiming to help others learn what cannabis use for medical purposes is truly like.
Though Erin urges patients who are considering the treatment once it is available in the UK to remember that this isn’t for a ‘drug high’ but rather, if taken correctly, a ‘medical miracle’ for many.
“A lot of people want to treat it like it is a drug to get high off of only. That is not how it is meant to be used, though. It is meant to be used for specific conditions, and used in a manner to help, not hinder. With it I am able to carry on a normal life again without the pain, without the seizures, without muscle spasms and convulsions.
“I can speak clearly again and have regained memories that I had lost when my health condition was at its worst. To me, it was a choice of life on medications, where I may be worse off than I already was because they made me sick, or the surgery left permanent brain damage and caused unforeseen complications, or I could take a chance on something that has few minor known side effects and is something that I truly believe in.
“I live its truth every day now, and people are starting to see it. Most people who I have talked to about cannabis are friends and family, who know that I am using it in my treatment. A lot of them wonder if I am using cannabis just to get high, or if I’m using it like a street drug. They don’t understand that while, yes, some people do use it for this purpose alone, most of those that I know who use cannabis, are using it for a purpose.
“They use it to treat something, whether it be depression, appetite loss, Crohn’s disease, or severe pain, they are using it legitimately to help them live and thrive. This is the biggest issue. People don’t understand that when it is used for medication, and treated like medicine, then it is a completely different story than what we were taught. It helps.”
“It is the only thing keeping me alive and allowing me to be the wife and mother my family needs. Without it I can’t eat, sleep, speak, see or function due to pain, seizures and vomiting. With it I am a normal person walking down the grocery store aisle getting food for her family, and you would never know any different if I didn’t tell you.”
Modern medicine is about to change forever, marking a serious change for the UK’s health system.
The Home Office has had to conduct further investigation as until recently the drug was classified as a ‘schedule 1 drug’ with no recognised therapeutic benefits, that was until Thursday.
However, Professor Mike Barnes, an expert in medical cannabis and clinician, recently published an article for the British Medical Journal explaining how cannabis could be useful for the treatment of conditions such as chronic pain, spastic, nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy and drug-resistant epilepsy, among others.
“The recent case of Alfie Dingley and other children, whose epilepsy responded to full extract cannabis oils containing CBD and THC, shows that the matter is complex and that some children seem to respond maximally to a combination of low dose THC and higher dose CBD,” he wrote.
“A recent Cochrane systematic review of 23 randomised controlled trials confirmed the anti-emetic properties of “cannabinoids”. Patients were five times more likely to report complete absence of vomiting against placebo.
“Several reviews have assessed the efficacy of various cannabinoid preparations for the management of chronic pain. One review found eight studies and concluded there was “moderate quality” evidence of efficacy against placebo to support the use of cannabinoids,” he added.
So, what have the Home Office actually agreed to?
There is a little thing called the ACMD, The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, who conducted the Home Office’s review. They have asked the Department of Health and Social Care and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to promptly agree on a clear definition of ‘what constitutes a cannabis-derived medicinal product’.
However, this does not mark a big step towards legalisation of cannabis use for recreational use.
Sajid Javid commented unequivocally that cannabis use would not be legalised in any way other than medically.
“Following advice from two sets of independent advisers, I have taken the decision to reschedule cannabis-derived medicinal products – meaning they will be available on prescription,” a statement said.
“This will help patients with an exceptional clinical need, but is in no way a first step to the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use.”
Though police forces disagree with this approach and are supportive of extending the legalisation further. The majority have declared that they would be in favour of this next step as some admit to already turning a ‘blind eye’ to what they deem as a ‘minor offence’.
Former Conservative party leader, William Hague, has previously led the fight for decriminalisation on the grounds of the current policy only profits criminals and wastes police resources.
Do you believe that this is a step towards recreational legalisation or just a step forward for the world of medicine?