UK Cannabis Legalisation: Here's what our healthcare professionals need to know
It is with mixed fanfare that the UK formally legalises certain cannabis-based products for prescription through the NHS. Cannabis activists have been quick to point out how limited the scope of the cannabis rollout is, and the NHS even state on their website that not many people are going to be prescribed cannabis, leaving the majority to continue sourcing their medicine on the blackmarket. In part this could be due to GP's not being able to prescribe cannabis. Only a specialist doctor on the General Medical Council Specialist Register will have that privilege. It is fair to say that attitudes towards cannabis within this arena are extremely cautious, however there's hope that this could slowly open up the door for cannabis to be more widely accessible. One discerning commentator 'Ken B' notes:
"For at least 40 years, Doctors have been bombarded with the message that cannabis is 'a dangerous, addictive drug with no medical uses'. It will take a lot to convince them that prohibition was based on religious and racial bigotry and not on the Science that was available at the time, let alone the Science available now. The discovery of the endocannabinoid system in almost all living plants and animals is a paradigm shift for biology. Because humans have cannabinoid receptors in the brain and most types of tissue, it's beyond a doubt that cannabis is medically useful. How best to use it is an ongoing research topic that only now will be addressed.
We need to get the facts to Doctors:
1. Cannabis is safer than ANY drug listed in their Physicians Desk Reference. The LD50 for cannabis is effectively infinity.
2. The actual incidents of psychosis triggered by cannabis are extremely rare. One in 27000* or less. There are many licensed pharmaceuticals that have a far worse adverse reaction profile than that.
3. No one has EVER died from toxicity by using the cannabis plant. Yes, there are reports of cannabis-related deaths, but none of them from the drug. Quite unlike opioids, then."
*Whilst we weren't able to verify this particular statistic, recent figures stating hospital admissions are misleading as they include admissions for 'Spice', a synthetic version of cannabis which is far more dangerous than cannabis itself. There would need to be a differentiation between these substances to conduct any sort of meaningful analysis.
However, this comprehensive study concludes that 'schizophrenia is a ubiquitous accompaniment of the human condition and rates do not vary very much between cultures and settings despite wide variations in cannabis use.'
This study carried out with 600,000 patients over a period of 9 years in the UK, also found no link between cannabis and psychosis.
A further study shows a significant statistical association between reclassification of cannabis and cannabis psychosis admissions. This shows that when the rules around cannabis are relaxed, less people are becoming psychotic. Could the stress of risking legal proceedings simply for using a plant be a major contribution on the 'mental health' affect of cannabis?
The onerous is now on each and every one of us to bring these studies, this information, to our GP's, clinicians and anyone that will benefit from this knowledge.