UK medical cannabis refers to cannabis-based medicines used to alleviate symptoms of various conditions. It is important to note that many cannabis-based products available for purchase online may be illegal. However, specific cannabis-based products are available on prescription for patients who qualify. Some conditions medical cannabis UK is likely to be prescribed for are epilepsy in children and adults, vomiting or nausea caused by chemotherapy in adults, and muscle stiffness and spasms caused by Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in people. It is only considered when other treatments have not been effective or suitable. Still, doctors are prescribing it for other conditions for which cannabis has been shown to help if the patient has tried two or more medicines for their condition unsuccessfully.
Can I get a prescription for medical cannabis?
Obtaining a prescription for medical cannabis in the UK is a slightly involved process. Still, medical cannabis clinics like Releaf are working to reduce the complexity and make the journey easier for patients. Currently, medical cannabis is primarily prescribed for specific conditions and is only considered when other treatment options have been ineffective or unsuitable.
Prescriptions for medical cannabis are given by specialist doctors rather than general practitioners. The decision to prescribe it is made on a case-by-case basis, considering the patient’s best interests and the failure of other treatment options.
|Failure of 1 other treatment
|Failure of 2 other treatments
A prescription for medical cannabis is not guaranteed, and individuals seeking it should consult with a clinic to determine whether they may be eligible. Some clinics offer handy eligibility checkers for patients to self-assess. Always follow legal guidelines and work closely with medical professionals when considering medical cannabis treatment.
What Conditions Qualify for Medical Cannabis in the UK?
You may be prescribed medical cannabis in the UK privately for the following conditions as long as you have tried at least two other medicines for your condition:
Associated with Pain
- Back and neck pain
- Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)
- Ehlers-Danlos Syndromes (EDS)
- Joint pain
- Musculoskeletal pain (MSK)
- Neuropathic pain or nerve pain
For Neurological Conditions
- Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Cluster headaches
- Functional Neurological Disorder (FND)
- Motor Neurone Disease (MND)
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Muscle spasms
- Parkinson’s disease
- Tourette’s syndrome
For Psychiatric Conditions
- Appetite disorders like Anorexia
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- Insomnia or sleep disorders
- Major Depressive Disorder (Depression)
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Panic disorder
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Social anxiety disorder or social phobia
- Substance Use Disorder
For Gastrointestinal Conditions
- Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Associated with Cancer
- Cancer-related anxiety
- Cancer-related appetite loss
- Cancer-related depression
- Cancer-related pain
- Chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting
For Palliative Care
- Palliative care pain
- Palliative care anxiety
Some other Conditions
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or ME
- Restless legs syndrome
Epidyolex for Epilepsy Patients
Epidyolex is a medicine containing CBD (cannabidiol), a non-psychoactive component of cannabis. It is a specific cannabis-based medicine that can be prescribed for rare forms of epilepsy, such as Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. Epidyolex (known as Epidolex outside of Europe) does not contain THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive component of cannabis that produces a high. Specialist doctors prescribe it for children and adults with epilepsy who have not responded to other treatments.
Some key points to note about Epidyolex for the treatment of epilepsy:
- Epidyolex, produced by GW Pharmaceuticals, is a medicine that contains CBD, a non-psychoactive component of cannabis.
- It is specifically prescribed for rare forms of epilepsy, such as Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.
- Epidyolex does not contain THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis.
- Specialist doctors prescribe it for patients who have not responded to other treatments.
In clinical trials, Epidyolex has shown promising results in reducing the frequency and severity of seizures in patients with these rare forms of epilepsy. It offers a potential treatment option for individuals without relief from other medications or therapies. However, it is important to consult a specialist doctor to determine if Epidyolex is appropriate for an individual’s case.
Benefits of Epidyolex
|Benefits of Epidyolex for Epilepsy Patients
|– Reduction in seizure frequency and severity
|– Prescription required
|– Potential improvement in overall quality of life
|– Limited availability
|– Non-psychoactive with no intoxicating effects
|– Individual response may vary
|– Potential for adjunctive therapy in combination with other antiepileptic medications
|– Side effects may occur
It is important to note that Epidyolex is just one of the cannabis-based medicines available for epilepsy treatment. Other cannabis-based products, such as CBD oil, may also be used to manage seizures in some cases. However, using these products to treat serious and debilitating illnesses should always be done under the guidance and supervision of a doctor who understands cannabis.
Furthermore, the effectiveness and safety of cannabis-based medicines for epilepsy are still being studied, and more research is needed to understand their potential benefits and risks fully. It is crucial for individuals considering these treatments to have open and honest discussions with their doctors to make informed decisions about their epilepsy management.
Nabilone for Chemotherapy-Induced Nausea
Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy often experience severe nausea and vomiting as side effects of their treatment. In such cases, Nabilone, a synthetic form of THC, can be prescribed by a specialist to help alleviate these symptoms. Nabilone is specifically designed to target chemotherapy-induced nausea and can be an effective treatment option for patients who have not responded well to other anti-sickness medications.
Nabilone works by interacting with the endocannabinoid system in the body, which regulates nausea and vomiting. By binding to specific receptors in the brain, Nabilone helps to reduce the sensation of nausea and the frequency of vomiting episodes. This can significantly improve the quality of life for chemotherapy patients, allowing them to tolerate their treatment better and maintain their nutrition.
Benefits of Nabilone:
- Effectively reduces chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting
- Allows patients to tolerate their treatment better
- Improves overall quality of life during chemotherapy
It is important to note that Nabilone is a prescription medication and should only be taken under the guidance of a specialist doctor. Like any medication, it may have potential side effects and interactions with other drugs, so it is crucial to discuss all medications and any concerns with the prescribing doctor. Overall, Nabilone offers a promising solution for chemotherapy-induced nausea and can significantly improve the well-being of cancer patients undergoing treatment.
|Nabilone for Chemotherapy-Induced Nausea
|Effectively reduces chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting
|Allows patients to better tolerate their treatment
|Allows patients to tolerate their treatment better
|Improves overall quality of life during chemotherapy
Nabilone offers hope and relief for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, providing a viable solution to manage the debilitating side effects of nausea and vomiting. By working with healthcare professionals, patients can explore the potential benefits of Nabilone and its role in improving their overall well-being during cancer treatment.
It is worth noting that medical cannabis in its flower form can work remarkably well for patients battling nausea – speak to a medical cannabis doctor if you are suffering from severe nausea and have tried other treatments unsuccessfully.
Nabiximols (Sativex) for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) patients
Nabiximols, also known as Sativex, is a cannabis-based medicine that is sprayed into the mouth. It is licensed for use in the UK for adults with MS-related muscle spasticity that has not improved with other treatments. Sativex contains both THC and CBD, the two primary cannabinoids found in cannabis. Specialists prescribe it, effectively reducing muscle spasticity in MS patients.
MS-related muscle spasticity is a common symptom of multiple sclerosis, causing stiffness, spasms, and pain. This can significantly impact the quality of life for individuals living with MS. Sativex targets the cannabinoid receptors in the central nervous system, helping to relax muscles and alleviate spasticity.
It is important to note that Sativex is only available on prescription and should be used under the guidance of a healthcare professional. The prescribing specialist will determine the dosage and frequency of use based on the individual’s needs and response to treatment. As with any medication, there may be potential side effects; discussing these with the healthcare team is important.
Efficacy and Safety of Sativex
|Double-blind, placebo-controlled study by Kalkman et al. (2019)
|160 participants with MS-related spasticity
|Sativex significantly reduced spasticity and improved mobility compared to placebo. Adverse events included dizziness, fatigue, and dry mouth.
|Observational study by Collin et al. (2010)
|572 participants with MS-related spasticity
|Sativex improved spasticity, pain, and quality of life. Adverse events were generally mild to moderate and included dizziness and nausea.
|Systematic review by Lakhan et al. (2019)
|Multiple studies on Sativex for MS-related spasticity
|Sativex was found to be effective in reducing muscle spasticity and improving patient-reported outcomes. Adverse events were mostly mild and well-tolerated.
These studies demonstrate the effectiveness of Sativex in reducing muscle spasticity and improving the quality of life for individuals with MS. However, it is important to note that Sativex may not be suitable for everyone, and the prescribing specialist will assess the individual’s suitability for treatment. As with any medication, there may be potential side effects, and regular monitoring will be necessary to ensure its safety and efficacy.
Cannabis flowers may also be vaporised or even smoked (although medical recommendations in the UK insist cannabis is vaporised medically) by patients who have multiple sclerosis to help manage their condition. Cannabis has been shown to replace multiple medications with fewer side effects by patients using medical cannabis.
Use of medical cannabis for chronic pain
There is plenty of evidence suggesting that medical cannabis can help manage certain types of pain, and medical cannabis doctors in the UK prescribe for chronic pain relief.
Chronic pain is a complex condition that can significantly impact a person’s quality of life. It is often challenging to treat, and traditional pain medications may not always provide adequate relief. This has led to increased interest in exploring alternative options such as medical cannabis.
Medical cannabis contains compounds called cannabinoids, including THC and CBD, which are believed to have pain-relieving properties. These cannabinoids interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which regulates pain, inflammation, and other physiological processes.
Potential Benefits and Risks of Medical Cannabis for Pain Relief
|• Relief from chronic pain
|• Side effects such as increased or decreased appetite, nausea, and mood changes
|• Improved sleep
|• Potential for dependency
|• Reduction in inflammation
|• Interactions with other medications
|• Increased quality of life
Medical Cannabis for Neurological Conditions
Patients suffering from neurological conditions such as Migraines may qualify for medical cannabis if they have tried two or more treatments without success. A common misconception is that medical cannabis may be difficult to access without a rare form of epilepsy or MS – but recent case studies show doctors prescribing for other neurological conditions where patients have been unsuccessful with other medications.
Medical Cannabis Through Your GP
This is currently a no-go in the United Kingdom. Asking your GP for medical cannabis will not result in a prescription – they cannot prescribe it. Patients will need to obtain their summary care records from the GP and pass this to a medical cannabis clinic, which can then assess them for an appointment with a specialist doctor (who can prescribe cannabis). Once prescribed, patients can buy their private medicine via the clinic website and have it dispatched directly to their door.
Products available to buy without a prescription
When it comes to purchasing cannabis-based products in the UK without a prescription, there are several options available online. Still, the legal ones won’t contain the cannabinoid THC unless in trace quantities. Additionally, many cannabis products marketed as CBD oil or hemp oil may not meet legal standards or quality requirements. It’s important to note that the sale and purchase of these products may also vary depending on the country or region.
Some health stores offer CBD products as food supplements, but the quality and health benefits of these products can vary. It’s important to be aware that these products can contain THC, the psychoactive compound found in cannabis. CBD products sold in health stores typically contain small amounts of CBD, and their effects are likely reduced at low doses.
When considering purchasing cannabis-based products online, it’s essential to research and ensure that the seller is reputable. Look for third-party lab test results and customer reviews to gain confidence in the product’s quality and safety. Always cheque the legal status of cannabis products in your country or region to avoid any legal complications.
Comparison of Legal Cannabis Products in the UK
|It is marketed as a source of omega-3 fatty acids. Look for lab tests to ensure potency.
|It is marketed as a source of omega-3 fatty acids. Look for lab tests to ensure potency.
|Products containing THC above the legal limit are illegal to possess without a prescription.
Note: The legal status of cannabis products may change, and staying updated with the latest regulations and guidelines is essential.
While there are cannabis-based products available for purchase without a prescription in the UK, it’s important to tread cautiously and consider factors such as legality, quality, and safety. CBD products can be found as food supplements in health stores, but their effects and quality may vary. Ensuring that the seller is reputable and provides third-party lab test results is crucial. Additionally, it’s important to stay informed about the legal status of cannabis products in your country or region to avoid any legal complications.
Safety Concerns of Medical Cannabis Use
While medical cannabis has shown promise in treating certain conditions, there are important safety concerns that need to be addressed. One of the main risks associated with medical cannabis is the potential for THC-related side effects, which can be unwanted for patients. This can be reduced with different consumption methods, sticking with the same strains for a while or tolerating the dose.
The risk of cannabis dependency is relatively small when medical cannabis use is monitored and controlled by a specialist doctor. However, it’s essential to be aware of the potential for dependency and to seek medical guidance when using medical cannabis.
To ensure the safety of medical cannabis products, it’s vital to consider their content and quality. Cannabis bought illegally from unregulated sources poses the greatest danger in theory. Yet, patients report that good quality cannabis they source illegally can often be of a better standard than prescribed medicine. That being said, with cases of grit weed reported by the UKCSC in 2023 and the potential issues from consuming contaminated cannabis, medical cannabis is a clear winner in terms of safety for patients. When using medical cannabis, it’s crucial to obtain products from reputable sources and follow medical advice regarding dosage and usage.
Side Effects of Medical Cannabis
When considering the use of medical cannabis, it is important to understand the potential side effects that may occur. The use of cannabis, particularly products containing THC, can lead to various adverse reactions. These side effects may include decreased appetite, diarrhoea, nausea, weakness, mood changes, dizziness, fatigue, hallucinations, and even exacerbated negative thoughts. It is crucial to report any side effects experienced to the medical team promptly.
In addition to the physical and psychological side effects, interactions between CBD, THC, and other medications should be carefully considered. CBD has been known to affect liver function, so regular monitoring is necessary. It is recommended to discuss any potential interactions with other medications with a healthcare professional to ensure the safe and effective use of medical cannabis.
It is worth noting that the severity and occurrence of side effects can vary among individuals. Factors such as the dosage, method of administration, and individual tolerance can influence the likelihood and intensity of these side effects. Therefore, it is important to work closely with a specialist doctor to find the optimal treatment plan and dosage that minimises side effects while maximising the potential benefits of medical cannabis.
|Common Side Effects
|Rare Side Effects
When contemplating medical cannabis treatment, it is important to consult with specialist doctors to obtain a prescription and adhere to legal guidelines. Furthermore, the safety and quality of medical cannabis products are crucial factors. It is important to remember that cannabis purchased illegally from unreliable sources carries the most risk. By working closely with specialists and following proper protocols, patients can navigate the complex landscape of medical cannabis use in the UK.
What conditions qualify for cannabis in the UK?
Medical cannabis on the NHS is typically prescribed for rare, severe forms of epilepsy, chemotherapy-induced vomiting or nausea, and muscle stiffness and spasms caused by multiple sclerosis (MS). Privately it is prescribed for a wide range of qualifying conditions
Can I get a prescription for medical cannabis?
Yes – but not from your GP. Obtain your summary care record from your GP and pass this to your chosen UK medical cannabis clinic to be assessed for eligibility.
What is Epidyolex used for?
Epidyolex is a highly purified liquid containing CBD (cannabidiol). It can be prescribed for rare forms of epilepsy, such as Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, in both children and adults.
What is Nabilone prescribed for?
Nabilone can be prescribed to adult patients to help relieve chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting when other anti-sickness treatments have not been effective or suitable.
What is Nabiximols (Sativex) used for?
Nabiximols, also known as Sativex, is a cannabis-based medicine sprayed into the mouth. It is licensed for use in the UK to reduce MS-related muscle spasticity in adults who have not responded to other treatments.
Can medical cannabis be used for long-term pain?
While there is some evidence suggesting medical cannabis may help manage certain types of pain, it is not currently recommended as a standard treatment for pain relief. In some cases, medical cannabis may be prescribed for pain as part of a clinical trial.
Can I buy cannabis products without a prescription?
There are various cannabis-based products available for purchase online without a prescription. However, it is important to exercise caution as many of these products may be illegal and potentially unsafe. Some products marketed as CBD oil or hemp oil can be legally purchased as food supplements, but their quality and health benefits are not guaranteed.
What are the safety concerns of medical cannabis use?
Medical cannabis is associated with lower side effects and risks than many commonly prescribed medications, however there are concerns about the cannabinoid THC due to media portrayal in the recreational space.
What are the side effects of medical cannabis?
The use of medical cannabis, particularly products containing THC, can cause various side effects including increased or decreased appetite, diarrhea, nausea, weakness, mood changes, dizziness, fatigue, hallucinations, and even exacerbation of negative thoughts. CBD can also affect liver function, so regular monitoring is necessary if you suffer with a liver condition.
Is medical cannabis readily available?
Yes – although wait times can vary for patients. The patient journey requires the patient to obtain their summary care records (SCR) and provide them to a medical cannabis clinic, where they will be assessed and booked in with a specialist doctor. Doctors can prescribe the cannabis which is then available for the patient to purchase. Current issues in the medical cannabis industry include supply issues, with some patients waiting for their medicine while clinics chase suppliers