Humankind and cannabis share a long history

Archaeologists have documented humans use of cannabis as far back as 3500BC and throughout history have identified the therapeutic potential of this plant. Cannabis has been cultivated by humans over the years to manage the symptoms of many conditions.

Cannabis was a commonly-prescribed medicine in the UK during the 19th and 20th century. It was prescribed as a treatment for conditions such as melancholia, migraines, sleep aid, analgesic and anti-convulsant. It was only the law changes of 1971, when the Misuse of Drugs Act came into force, that cannabis became illegal. This elimination from the medical pharmacopoeia was contested by doctors at the time.

Despite its illegal status, cannabis could still be researched in certain parts of the world such as Israel. In 1992, at a Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Dr. Lumir Hanus along with American researcher Dr. William Devane working in Raphael Mechoulam’s Laboratory, discovered the endocannabinoid system.

Since this discovery, cannabinoid researchers have identified endocannabinoid receptors in the central nervous system, the internal organs, connective tissues, glands and immune cells. These receptors act as a lock and key with the phytocannabinoids found in cannabis, unlocking signalling activity or blocking receptor function. The presence of these receptors in the central nervous system in particular, mean that cannabis medicines have been proven to be extremely effective in the treatment of pain.

A tale of two compounds

The two most commonly discussed therapeutic compounds within cannabis are CBD (Cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).

CBD is currently available to buy over the counter from health food and vape shops, and although some may find relief from these products, the CBD content is often too low to provide alleviation of more severe symptoms experienced by those with chronic conditions.

THC is more ‘psychoactive’, which may have earned it a bad reputation among those without recent medical experience of using cannabinoids. However, there is evidence that THC has a diverse range of potential medical applications such as regulating pain signalling, as an anti-convulsant, neuroprotectant, anti-spasmodic, appetite stimulant and anti-depressant. Medications containing THC are only available on prescription in the UK and cannot be obtained over the counter.

Modern biomedical science is beginning to provide a much more helpful understanding of the use of CBD and THC for treating medical problems. We now understand that for the most effective results, precise doses of THC and CBD, often carefully combined, should be used to deliver maximum benefit whilst minimising unwanted effects.

Whilst THC and CBD are currently the most researched, the potential for the medical application of a number of the other 144 cannabinoids that have been discovered in the cannabis plant, are emerging worldwide.

Integro’s partner, Grow Pharma, are able to supply precise and personalised pharmaceutical preparations of CBD and THC to patients utilising IPS Pharma’s twenty years of bespoke formulation and Specials expertise.

There is a growing volume of information supporting the credibility of cannabis medicines as a safe and effective treatment  for patients with long-term medical problems that have been unable to effectively achieve the desired quality of life through more conventional treatments. It is this area of using precisely controlled cannabis-based medicines as treatment that Integro Clinics are especially skilled in.

Cannabis Medicine in the UK

Due to the gradual relaxation of regulations over the last two decades, the proper medical use of cannabinoids are becoming available in many countries around the world.

In November 2018 cannabis-based medicinal products in the UK were reclassified from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 Controlled Substances.  That small but significant change had an immediate impact on the potential for treating patients medically.

In that very same month our partner organisation, Grow Pharma, supplied one of the very first cannabis medicine prescriptions in the UK. This was a high-profile case with positive results. With the help of the Home Office, MHRA regulatory bodies and the UK Department of Health, IPS were able to deliver what proved to be a life changing medicine to the family in question within two days.

It is estimated that in the UK today 1.4 million people use cannabis illicitly for medicinal purposes. Together with our partners, Integro Medical Clinics hope that in the future a significant proportion of that population, with unmet medical needs, will be able to access the benefits of responsibly sourced and prescribed cannabis medicine legally and without stigma.  

Learning resources

Whilst the body of evidence for cannabis-based medicine as a conventional therapy grows, Integro takes inspiration and learning from countries where its use is more advanced than the UK. With 8 million registered and fully legal cannabis medicine users, Israel is a pioneer in the field.

It is where the world’s first cannabis-based medicine programme got off the ground. Patient data from Israel is helping us all to understand how the balance of CBD and THC should best be configured to treat a wide range of conditions including Anxiety, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Multiple Sclerosis pain and muscle spasm, Children’s Epilepsy and pain conditions linked to a broad range of medical causes.

At Integro Clinics our early focus is on the treatment of pain conditions with an expansion to treatments for other conditions planned for the near future.

Now, cannabis medicines are prescribed in Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Finland (under licence), Germany, Greece, Italy, Jamaica, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Mexico (with a maximum THC of 1%), Norway, Panama, Poland, Romania, San Marino, Switzerland, Turkey, Uruguay, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Whilst Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus and France all have cannabinoid therapies available but in a more limited capacity at this time.

Integro Clinics, together with our patients and partners, hope to add to the continuously expanding pool of knowledge through production of education resources and research, and are proud to be part of this innovative international community.

To access this data, and for other resources about the use of cannabis based medicine, visit our news and support page.

More about Cannabis Medicines

Integro Medical Clinics can prescribe medicines to treat long term conditions associated with chronic pain. Cannabis-Based Medicinal Products (CBMPs) are amongst the options we can make available. CBMPs are relatively new medicines available for prescription in the UK. For more information see below.

Cannabis Medicine

What is Cannabis?

Cannabis is a herbaceous plant indigenous to Central Asia. First records of use in medicine date back many thousands of years. Cannabis features extensively in traditional Chinese Medicine and ancient Arabic and Indian cultures. It was commonly present in over-the-counter medicines in Europe and the UK from its introduction in the 1840’s until the mid 20th Century.  

What are Cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are active chemical compounds that act on specific cannabinoid receptors within the body.  They are produced both within the human body (endo-cannabinoids) and in the cannabis plant (phyto-cannabinoids).

There are currently 144 cannabinoids that have been discovered in the cannabis plant.  Currently the most researched are THC and CBD. At present, the vast majority of cannabis medicine products focus on these two central active ingredients.

There is also research being undertaken on the action of terpenes and flavonoids found within the cannabis plants and their potential role in the medical applications of cannabis medicines.  These are not cannabis specific compounds however, and are found in many common foods and plants.

How do Cannabis Medicines Work?

In 1992, scientists at the lab of Raphael Mechoulam in Jerusalem discovered the naturally occurring endocannabinoid system, often abbreviated to ECS.  This system exists in the bodies of almost all animals including human beings. The ECS is a system of receptors, situated on certain cells, that cannabinoids can bind to and through which they enact their medical effects.

The body produces its own cannabinoids all the time.  Examples of which include Anandamide and 2-Arachidonoylglycero.   Between them, they appear to be responsible for the regulation of physiological functions such as, cognition, management of pain, appetite regulation, memory, movement control and emotion.  However, in some cases the production of these cannabinoids may become unbalanced.  Phyto-cannabinoids, which is the term used to refer to the cannabinoids found in cannabis, mimic the actions of these endogenous compounds.   Using cannabis-medicines may help to restore this balance.