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Medical cannabis in the UK: From principle to practice - PMC

As the UK moves towards a comprehensive regulation of medical cannabis, there is growing interest in the role of practitioners in its implementation. Medical cannabis has the potential to provide relief to a variety of patients, from those with chronic pain to those suffering from neurological conditions. As such, it is essential that healthcare practitioners understand the principles and practice of medical cannabis in order for them to be fully informed about the potential risks and benefits for their patients.

1. Overview of the current UK laws on the use of medical cannabis

In the UK, the regulation of medical cannabis is complex and subject to change. Currently, the only medical cannabis products available in the UK are those that have been prescribed by a qualified medical doctor for the

treatment of certain medical conditions, such as chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis.

Furthermore, only certain types of medical cannabis products qualify for prescription, such as oral capsules and oils, and only those that contain┬áthe two specific active ingredients of THC and CBD. Physicians must be satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to support the use of these products in the patient’s case before they can be prescribed.

2. Benefits of using medical cannabis

One of the primary benefits of using medical cannabis in the UK is the potential for therapeutic benefits. Cannabidiol (CBD) is the main component of medical cannabis, and is known to possess anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, and analgesic properties, which may prove beneficial for a variety of ailments. Additionally, medical cannabis may help to reduce the side-effects of traditional treatments such as chemotherapy, by reducing nausea and restoring appetite. Finally, medical cannabis may also be beneficial in treating neurological conditions such as epilepsy and multiple sclerosis, as well as mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

3. How medical cannabis is used in the UK

In the UK, medical cannabis is licensed for the treatment of certain medical conditions, including chemotherapy-induced nausea, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain and epilepsy.

The use of cannabis-based products for medical purposes is strictly regulated, with the Home Office issuing a licence to those who wish to possess, supply, produce and import medical cannabis. The National Health Service (NHS) will only consider prescribing cannabis-based products to patients if they have not responded to other treatment options and there is clear evidence of clinical benefit. All medical cannabis products must be prescribed by a specialist doctor and dispensed by a pharmacist.

4. Challenges for accessing medical cannabis in the UK

Although the UK has accepted the principle of medical cannabis, there are still some challenges preventing it from becoming a mainstream treatment option. One of the main challenges is restricted access. Due to the high cost of cannabis-based medicines and lack of knowledge of the prescribing process, the availability of medical cannabis across the UK remains low.

Despite changes in the law, many healthcare professionals are still reluctant to prescribe cannabis-based medicines due to lack of guidance and evidence on how to use them safely and effectively. In addition, the UK has a limited number of specialist clinics and dispensaries, meaning that access to medical cannabis can be difficult for those living in rural areas.

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