5 surprising things I've learned from attending medical cannabis week

Last week was medical cannabis awareness week in the UK. It was run by the Patient-led Access for Engagement (PLEA) community. All week there was several online seminars from patients, doctors, researchers and industry experts talking on the subject.
One of the reasons for the awareness week was to highlight the lack of fair access to Medical Cannabis currently. This due to the prohibitive cost of private prescriptions, and the fear and stigma that still remains. 

I attended almost every session. Here are the 5 most surprising things I've learned:
Note: The term “medicinal cannabis” is used to refer to any form of medication that contains cannabis. The key difference between CBD oil and medical cannabis is that CBD oil can only contain trace amounts of THC, up to 0.2% (recently been upgraded to 0.3% in Europe) whereas medical cannabis does not have this restriction. 

1) People who take medical cannabis are people we know

When I used to think of patients taking medical cannabis,  I used to think of people with major diseases like a rare form of epilepsy or perhaps someone whose been in a bad accident.  

However, the type of patients discussed by doctors are everyday conditions we know:  arthritis, inflammation, back/neck pain, pelvic pain, fibromyalgia and nerve pain to name a few. 
The typical profile of medical cannabis patient is someone in their 50's taking it for pain” - Dr. Mike Barnes 

Typically people turn to medical cannabis when conventional medication is either having bad side-effects or not helping enough.
Other conditions also treated regularly are insomnia, anxiety, stress, depression, IBS, epilepsy, MS, Alzheimers and Parkinson’s disease. 

2) Medical cannabis is really helpful for patients undergoing chemo

A recent large study in Israel which analysed the use of cannabis with almost 3000 cancer patients undergoing chemo showed huge promises for potential of medical cannabis. 
Medical cannabis was used to help the symptoms from their treatment/illness such as sleep problems, pain, weakness, nausea and appetite. 

  • After 6 months, of the 60.9% of patients who responded to survey, 95.9% reported an improvement in their condition 

Astonishingly, one doctor did mention that the cannabis that is most helpful is whole-plant natural cannabis. Synthetic cannabis, the one medically licensed and given to patients does not work as well.


3) Plea from patients that doctors become better educated on medical cannabis. 

Patient after patient plea from the week was that they wish they were able to have open informed conversations with their GP. Instead, they felt like they were the ones educating the doctors.
We can't really blame the doctors here, there is no medical training on the endocannabinoid system (the system in our body which responds to cannabis) in medical school. We need to goto the heart of the problem here and ask - why not?

4) Medical cannabis is coming...

One problem doctors often cite about medical cannabis is that there is not enough evidence. There are several reasons why not (more on this in another post), although primarily its because it's been banned for so many years. eh hello! but things are changing.

Registry's like project2021 have been set up to specifically address the problem of lack of evidence by gathering data from patients. 
It seems patients telling us that it is helping them is not enough, we need actual figures. 

5) We are only at the beginning of our understanding of medical cannabis 

It’s an exciting time to be in this space. Cannabis contains over 120 cannabinoids and over 100 different terpenes.

CBD and THC are just two cannabinoids, but there are plus120 more. 

We are really only at the beginning of this journey. 

Enjoy the ride.

You can watch some of the medical cannabis videos from the week here