Medical cannabis as a way of managing the symptoms associated with several medical conditions is slowly, but surely, gaining traction. Over the past two decades, countries have legalised cannabis as a medication, with many also legalising it for recreational use. In 2018, medical cannabis was also legalised in the UK.
In 2018, the cases of two children with rare conditions which cause epilepsy who benefited from the use of medical cannabis were brought to the attention of the general public. Although both children, Billy Caldwell (12) and Alfie Dingley (6), experienced significant improvement in symptoms after using medical cannabis, under existing UK laws, they were not allowed to continue their cannabis treatment. When Billy’s medical cannabis was confiscated by authorities, the little boy was hospitalised with life-threatening seizures, causing a massive public outcry.
This incident forced the government to take another look at its medical cannabis laws. On 1 November 2018, the use of medical cannabis for patients with an “exceptional clinical need” was made legal, and the drug was moved from Schedule I to Schedule II. Today, many medical marijuana doctors in the UK are authorised to prescribe the medication for several conditions.
In addition to helping with epilepsy symptoms, there are many other benefits of medical cannabis:
Benefits of Medical Cannabis:
Ease Chronic Pain
Medical cannabis or products containing cannabinoids (the active ingredients in cannabis) have been found to have anti-inflammatory properties. This means that it may help relieve the chronic pain associated with several conditions such as fibromyalgia, endometriosis, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, neuropathic pain, cancer and cancer-related treatments such as chemotherapy, migraines and cluster headaches.
Ease Nausea and Vomiting
Many cancer patients receiving treatment via chemotherapy experience significant weight loss because of the nausea and vomiting that comes with the treatment. Medical cannabis, in addition to relieving cancer pain and related treatments, may also relieve nausea and vomiting, stimulating appetite and helping with weight gain.
Manage Symptoms of Depression
A mood disorder that can cause a persistent feeling of loss, sadness, hopelessness and guilt, depression affects over 280 million people worldwide. It is the leading cause of disability in the UK. In addition to affecting your mood, this disorder can also impact sleep and concentration and leave you feeling fatigued with poor or increased appetite.
Studies have shown that some compounds within medical cannabis affect the 5-HT1A receptors in the brain, a type of serotonin receptor. Because serotonin is often also known as the “happiness molecule”, increased levels of serotonin in the body can have a positive impact on depressive symptoms. Moreover, mild doses of medical cannabis can improve sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation can contribute to clinical depression due to the neurological changes caused in the brain.
A number of sleep conditions, such as insomnia, sleep apnoea, snoring, restless legs syndrome (RLS), narcolepsy and night terrors, can have a negative impact on your quality of life. As mentioned above, small doses of medical cannabis can help improve sleep disorders by reducing cortisol levels in the body causing fewer nighttime awakenings and improving sleep quality. The CBD present in medical cannabis also helps reduce inflammation, muscle spasms and anxiety, allowing you to sleep better.
Manage Symptoms of PTSD
1 in every 10 people in the UK will experience PTSD at some point in their life. PTSD is characterised by flashbacks and nightmares that force you to relieve the traumatic moment, which may cause sleep avoidance, panic attacks and hypervigilance.
Over the years, PTSD sufferers have reported that using medical cannabis or cannabis products has helped them cope with their symptoms. This may be because medical cannabis may be able to bind with certain receptors in the body to suppress fear memories, improve REM sleep, lower anxiety, improve sleep and increase relaxation.
Improve Muscle Stiffness Caused by MS
Many Multiple Sclerosis sufferers are unable to find relief for muscle stiffness and spasms with traditional medication. In such cases, medical cannabis may be able to help. In addition to helping with muscle tightness, many people have also reported that medical cannabis has been able to help with other MS symptoms, including bladder problems, sleep difficulties and tremors.
Is Medical Cannabis Easily Available in the UK?
Although medical cannabis was legalised in the UK in 2018, there were strict conditions about eligibility that came with it. Under current UK law, only people with the following conditions can get access to medical cannabis:
- children and adults with rare, severe forms of epilepsy
- adults undergoing chemotherapy who are experiencing nausea and vomiting
- adults suffering from multiple sclerosis causing muscle stiffness and spasms.
However, other individuals with conditions like chronic pain, mental health disorders, sleep conditions and certain gastrointestinal issues who have previously tried two other treatment methods without success may be able to access medical cannabis through a private medical cannabis doctor. It is important to remember, however, that like any other medication, medical marijuana does not work for everyone.