As of today, November 1, doctors will be allowed to prescribe medicinal cannabis in the UK under new rulings.
For the first time ever, patients will be able to receive medicinal cannabis products in treatments given by specialist doctors.
The government has faced mounting pressure from campaigners of late, especially after a number of high-profile cases showed evidence how the drug can be beneficial to people with certain illnesses.
Until recently, cannabis has been classed as a schedule 1 drug, meaning it has no therapeutic value. However, the government was forced to reassess due to rising pressure from campaign groups and research findings which have proved the drug can be used therapeutically.
However, according to NHS Guidelines the treatments will be limited so that they can only be given out by specialist doctors in a limited number of circumstances.
Furthermore, they will only be considered if other medicines have failed, meaning medicinal cannabis will only be prescribed in a limited number of cases.
The document states:
Cannabis-based products for medicinal use should only be prescribed… in patients where there is a clinical need which cannot be met by a licensed medicine and where established treatment options have been exhausted.
In addition… the decision to prescribe should be agreed by the multidisciplinary team.
The NHS website admits that ‘very few’ people are likely to get a prescription for medicinal cannabis, stating that the treatments are only likely to be prescribed for the following conditions: children with rare, severe forms of epilepsy; and adults with vomiting or nausea caused by chemotherapy.
It suggests that children with severe epilepsy may be prescribed with Epidiolex, which is a liquid containing CBD. The website makes clear that this will not get you high, and that this is currently in the process of going through the licensing system.
Adults suffering from nausea due to chemotherapy may be prescribed with Nabilone to relieve their symptoms, but only when other treatments ‘haven’t helped or aren’t suitable’. This is often described as a ‘manmade form of cannabis’ and would be taken as a capsule.
The decision to make medicinal cannabis available on the NHS came after a young boy was denied access to cannabis oil to help treat his severe epilepsy.
Billy Caldwell, 12, and his mum Charlotte campaigned consistently to get his ‘life-saving’ medicine back, after it was seized at Heathrow airport back in June.
In a ground-breaking decision, the Home Office released life-saving cannabis oil to the epileptic boy, giving the impression that things were soon about to change.
Daniel Pryor, from the Adam Smith Institute, told The Sun:
I think that it’s absolutely fantastic news for kids like Alfie Dingley and Billy Caldwell who suffered under the previous laws we had, and I think it could be the start of real change in UK drug laws generally.
Recent polls have shown the highest ever approval ratings for legalisation in the UK, and this move towards medical cannabis legalisation is a positive move towards drug law reform.
Following the public outcry that came after this case, the Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Dame Sally Davies, assessed the benefits of cannabis-based products for medicinal use.
She concluded there was enough evidence to be able to reschedule the drug, as her findings suggested medicinal cannabis can be used therapeutically.
Cannabis oil has been used to treat a number of conditions, including mental health, sleep problems, low appetite, epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s.
Cannabidiol (CBD), has also been shown to help prevent signs of ageing, as well as protecting against eczema and psoriasis.
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A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).