Should the UK allow anxiety patients access to medical cannabis treatments?

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 Harvest Medicine’s reported outcomes, to date our data shows 66.4% of patients suffering from anxiety report that cannabis has met their treatment expectations and 90% say that it has also improved their quality of life. With less than 0.5% of the patients noting 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:

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:

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


Featured image: Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

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