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How do I get a prescription?
You cannot get cannabis-based medicine from your GP – it can only be prescribed by a doctor listed on the Specialist Register.
And medical cannabis is only likely to be prescribed for a small number of patients.
A specialist might consider prescribing medical cannabis if:
- your child has one of the rare forms of epilepsy that might be helped by medical cannabis
- you have spasticity from MS and treatments for this aren’t helping
- you have vomiting or feel sick from chemotherapy and anti-sickness treatments aren’t helping
The specialist will discuss with you all the other treatment options first, before considering a cannabis-based product.
A prescription for medical cannabis would only be given when it was believed to be in your best interests, and when other treatments hadn’t worked or weren’t suitable.
It’s expected this would only apply to a very small number of people in England.
The NHS says if the above does not apply to you, do not ask your GP for a referral for medical cannabis – however there is an increasing number of private specialists in the UK who offer consultation and prescriptions – MMRC is currently creating a register of specialists – simply use our contact form below to find out your nearest specialist.
Is medical cannabis safe?
The risks of using cannabis products containing THC (the chemical that gets you high) are not currently clear. That’s why clinical trials are needed before they can be used.
“Pure” products that only contain CBD, such as Epidiolex, do not carry these unknown risks linked with THC.
But in reality, most products will contain a certain amount of THC.
The main risks of THC cannabis products are:
- psychosis – there is evidence that regular cannabis use increases your risk of developing a psychotic illness such as schizophrenia
- dependency on the medicine – although scientists believe this risk is probably small when its use is controlled and monitored by a specialist doctor
Generally, the more THC the product contains, the greater these risks are.
Cannabis bought illegally off the street, where the quality, ingredients and strength are not known, is the most dangerous form to use.
Read about the risks of regularly smoking cannabis.
What are the side effects?
After taking medical cannabis, it’s possible to develop any of the following side effects:
- decreased appetite
- feeling sick
- greater weakness
- a behavioural or mood change
- feeling very tired
- feeling high
- suicidal thoughts
If you experience any side effects from medical cannabis, report these to your medical team. You can also report them through the Yellow Card Scheme.
CBD and THC can affect how other medicines work. Always discuss possible interactions with your specialist.
CBD can also affect how your liver works, so doctors would need to monitor you regularly.
Will the laws on cannabis be relaxed?
The government has no intention of legalising the use of cannabis for recreational (non-medical) use.
Possessing cannabis is illegal, whatever you’re using it for. That includes medical use unless it has been prescribed for you.
The law or Medical Cannabis 2018 – click the link to view Home Office explanatory notes on THE MISUSE OF DRUGS (AMENDMENTS) (CANNABIS AND LICENCE FEES) (ENGLAND, WALES AND SCOTLAND) REGULATIONS 2018
Is medical cannabis appropriate for my condition?
Your doctor is likely aware of the mainstream conditions for which medical cannabis has been approved, but different countries have different rules for different conditions. This can be confusing, so definitely do your legal homework. Before speaking with your doctor about obtaining a medical cannabis prescription, make sure you’re up-to-date on your specific legal requirements.
Conditions for which medical cannabis is commonly prescribed include:
- Cancer symptoms, including weight loss, nausea and vomiting
- Gastrointestinal disorders like Crohn’s disease and inflammatory bowel disease
- Muscle spasticity disorders, such as multiple sclerosis or epilepsy
- HIV/AIDS and related cachexia
What are the health risks associated with cannabis ?
You should definitely do your research and even show up to your consultation bearing scientific evidence about the safety of medical cannabis consumption. Your doctor might also have additional information about your condition, specifically. He or she may also be able to translate scientific jargon into easy-to-consume layman’s terms, which benefits everybody and will hopefully make you feel more comfortable.
One reason medical cannabis remains controversial with some health providers is that the amount of cannabis contained in a plant really depends on how it was grown, stored and prepared. That can make it tough to predict the dosage, and too much THC can induce paranoia or panic attacks.
How should I consume medical cannabis ?
Your doctor may have a recommendation concerning the vehicle or delivery method by which you consume medical cannabis. There are five different ways patients tend to ingest their cannabis, and each comes with its own sets of pros and cons depending on your style:
- Smoking. Probably the best-known way to consume medical cannabis, smoking is both inexpensive and easy. Of course, smoking comes with its own set of risks for your lungs.
- Vaporiser. Using a vaporiser allows to you inhale cannabis without having to necessarily inhale smoke. All you have to do is put a small bit of the dried cannabis or cannabis extract into the device and inhale.
- Edibles. Cannabis can be infused into butter or cooking oil for you to bake into different foods. Common edible foods include brownies, gummy bears and cookies. Although this is a popular — not to mention delicious — option, your doctor may warn you about the imprecise nature of baking your own edibles.
- Using tinctures or sprays. A tincture is a concentrated form of cannabis that can be mixed with alcohol (Not wine or beer but medicinal alcohol), glycerin or coconut oil extract. You can either spray the solution underneath your tongue or you can mix it with another beverage. One downside for this method is that is can be expensive.
- Wearing a dermal patch. People who wear medical cannabis patches tend to put them on their ankle, wrist or foot. The dermal patch can provide relief for about eight hours.
Can I expect to continue functioning in my daily life normally?
Obviously, your goal in pursuing medical cannabis is to improve your quality of life — not to create any new barriers to normal daily function. If you follow your doctor’s specific recommendations for dosage and even timing, you can expect to feel relief from your symptoms.
When you use more marijuana than is prescribed, you may experience some of the same side effects experienced by people who use cannabis recreationally. These side effects can include:
- Feelings of paranoia
- Feelings of anxiety
- Feelings of panic
If you follow your doctor’s orders, however, you have little need to fear this.
Stay strong and show resolve. Remember that it’s your right to decide what treatment routes are best for you, even if your doctor is ultimately too hesitant to oblige. It’s possible that, despite your best efforts, your regular physician may refrain from writing a recommendation.
In this case, you should consider visiting a physician who is a medical cannabis specialist.
Use our contact form below to find out your nearest specialist.
How Seniors Use Medical Cannabis
Like any other patient, senior use of medical cannabis can vary, depending on their condition and preferences. Administration choices or methods of delivery for medical cannabis include:
In most cases, a physician will recommend a treatment method that will deliver the best results with minimal side effects. If you cannot inhale smoke or apply topical creams due to lung or skin sensitivity, for instance, your medical cannabis doctor may suggest using edibles, as they can deliver the same relief. Approaches can change, however, depending on your experience with a medicating method. You may discover, for example, that your pain responds better to a topical cream, which provides localised relief.
As well as choosing an administration option, many senior patients will also need to select an appropriate strain for treating their symptoms. For elderly patients, a strain with a high concentration of CBD and a low percentage of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is ideal, as this can deliver a more psychoactive experience than CBD.