Medical cannabis was legalised in the UK on 1 November, 2018. However, as the NHS recognises on their website: “Very few people in England are likely to get a prescription for medical cannabis.”
This is because only small children with rare, severe epilepsy, adults suffering from nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy, and adults with MS are likely to even be considered for the medicinal use of cannabis. Other treatments must be ruled out as unhelpful or unsuitable for the patient before medical cannabis is prescribed.
However, medical cannabis has been known to widely treat various other conditions, including but not limited to anorexia, chronic pain, insomnia, and anxiety.
I am a 20-year-old female who personally suffers from anxiety and was prescribed medical cannabis while living in Canada. To hear my first-hand experience with the treatment, listen below.
Voice of London did a Q&A with Harvest Medicine Calgary in Alberta, Canada, a clinic that facilitates the prescription of medical cannabis to patients of a multitude of conditions.
VoL: How can medical cannabis benefit those who suffer from anxiety?
HMC: Medical Cannabis can benefit those who suffer from anxiety in several ways. First, it is important to understand that there are many different types of cannabis, strains, & cannabinoids. While some strains can cause increased anxiety, others have the opposite effect. There are 3 categories of cannabis; Indica dominant, Sativa dominant, & Hybrids (a combination of indica & sativa properties). All strains of cannabis contain naturally occurring compounds called cannabinoids. There are over 100 cannabinoids present in cannabis; two of the major players are THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) & CBD (Cannabidiol). THC is most commonly known, as is the molecule that causes the typical “high” sensation. CBD, a lesser known cannabinoid, has tremendous medical potential especially when it comes to treating anxiety. CBD acts on the receptors in the body to help modulate the receptors that stimulate our anxiety. It allows us to deal with pain and anxiety, removing that constant stress. Note that medical cannabis is a plant based medicine & the effects can vary from individual to individual. It is important to seek professional medical advice before starting a treatment with medical cannabis. Cannabis could be part of a larger treatment plan, but it shouldn’t be first line or the only treatment method for anxiety.
VoL: What are the possible side effects of medical cannabis?
HMC: Side effects of CBD are very minimal, compared to those of THC, however some people may experience the following side effects: appetite suppression, changes in mood, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, drowsiness. When starting to use medical cannabis, it should be consumed with caution, starting low & go slow.
VoL: Do you believe it would be beneficial for the UK to allow prescriptions of medical cannabis for those who suffer from anxiety?
HMC: It could be beneficial for people with anxiety to have access and to be able to inquire if medical cannabis is a good fit for their treatment plan. Whether is it in the UK or other countries, people suffer from anxiety challenges all around the world.
VoL: What is the most common misconception about medical cannabis?
HMC: That cannabis will get you high and that it needs to be smoked/inhaled. Strains that are CBD dominant with less than 2% THC, are considered non-impairing, meaning that there is no associated high as one would experience from strains that are THC dominant. There are many CBD options available in today’s North American cannabis markets. These options include alternative methods of ingestion in the form of capsules, oils, & sprays.
VoL: What is the success rate of medical cannabis in anxiety patients?
HMC: As per our reported outcomes, to date our data shows 64% of patients suffering from anxiety report that cannabis has met their treatment expectations and 47% say that it has also improved their quality of life. With less than 5% of the patients reporting not having any negative changes or no change in their condition.
The Q&A answers were written by Jeanette Williams, Medical Outreach and Faraz Sachedina, Clinical Supervisory and Research Co-ordinator. They were then approved by Dr. Richa Love, Medical Director, and Shekhar Parmar, CEO of Harvest Medicine Calgary.
Critics of the treatment argue that medical cannabis can cause further issues to the patients, such as addiction, loss of short term memory and cognitive ability, inability to concentrate, lethargy, and lung damage (if smoked).
Voice of London conducted a poll to find out what our readers think in terms of anxiety patients gaining access to medical cannabis treatments.
View the results below:
Do you think medical cannabis should be available as a treatment option for anxiety patients in the UK?
— Voice Of London UK (@VoiceOfLondonUK) December 3, 2018
As the treatment becomes more widely accepted, many believe the stigma around medical cannabis is over, but this is not always the case.
Recently, recording artist Shawn Mendes admitted to using cannabis for his anxiety in a Rolling Stone article entitled Shawn Mendes: Confessions of a Neurotic Teen Idol. This was met with a mixture of responses, proving the stigma is gone for some but alive and well for others.
Read Twitter reactions below:
Shawn plesse tell me ur not doing weed. I think u should think about going to rehab becausd we cant lose u like this. u are going to overdose and die like why are u doing this you are disappointing me I think you need to get help and stop hanging out with drug addicts like niall
— christmas & chill ♡ (@teardroparig) November 26, 2018
I know it’s not my life and I should still support him, but I’m kinda disappointed that he smokes weed. I mean, it won’t benefit you in any way but it’s his life and I will continue to love him ❤️@ShawnMendes
— 𝑒𝓂𝓂𝒶 ◡̈ (@fallinyouem) November 26, 2018
For those bashing Shawn Mendes because he smokes weed, you’re dumb as fuck. I don’t smoke but it does help many, including but not limited to: Seizures, Anxiety, Depression, ADHD, etc. Smoking weed doesn’t make you a bad person. It helps more than it hurts. Do research & grow up.
— nicholas liddle (@NLiddle16) November 26, 2018
lmfao these 12yr olds having breakdowns because shawn mendes said he smokes weed for anxiety meanwhile their other favs are railing lines of coke in public i can’t
— elijah daniel (@elijahdaniel) November 27, 2018
My mom found out Shawn mendes smokes weed and took my vip tickets away and sold them 🙁
— Sky and Daisy Prado (@allieprado5) November 26, 2018
Soo i have a confession to make. i used weed too! Am i now a bad person? I’m 35 years old. Despite my chronically illness I’m healthy af! Now i use CMD. Don’t make me high but it helps to calm & relax. Helps with anxiety or pain. Maybe it’s something for you too @ShawnMendes ❤️ pic.twitter.com/7DEJ28gTNx
— 🌸Jessy – i feel so free, when you're with me 🌸 (@JessyE82) November 26, 2018
Should medical cannabis be accessible to anxiety patients in the UK? Let us know what you think in our contact page.
Words and audio: Georgia Hansen | Subbing: Maria Campuzano