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    Medical Cannabis with Releaf

    In the United Kingdom, the subject of medical cannabis has gained increasing attention in recent years. This follows changes in legislation that allowed the prescription of cannabis-based medicinal products by specialist doctors, breaking new ground in the field of medicine. This document provides an extensive guide to understanding the world of medical cannabis in the UK, from its legal status to its medicinal applications.

    What is medical cannabis?

    Medical cannabis refers to the use of the cannabis plant and its numerous chemical components, known as cannabinoids, for medicinal purposes.

    What are the most popular types of cannabinoids?

    Two of the most well-known cannabinoids are THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol).

    What is THC?

    THC is the psychoactive component that gives recreational cannabis users the 'high'.

    What is CBD?

    CBD is non-psychoactive and has been associated with potential therapeutic effects.

    How has the opinion on medical cannabis use in the UK changed in recent times?

    Historically, cannabis use was a contentious issue in the UK due to concerns over the psychoactive effects of THC. This led to the classification of cannabis as a controlled drug under the Drugs Regulations. However, the recognition of the potential medicinal benefits of cannabis, particularly the non-psychoactive CBD, has led to a shift in public and medical opinion and subsequent legal changes.

    What is the medical cannabis UK law?

    In November 2018, the law in the UK changed to permit specialist doctors to prescribe cannabis-based medicinal products to patients under specific conditions. This was a significant milestone in recognising the potential medicinal use of cannabis. However, it's important to note that this doesn't equate to the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use – that remains illegal.

    How do the General Medical Council regulate medicinal cannabis in the UK?

    The General Medical Council, the organisation responsible for maintaining the official register of medical practitioners in the UK, plays an instrumental role in the regulation of medicinal cannabis. The GMC oversee a specialist register of doctors who are authorised to prescribe cannabis-based medicinal products. This ensures the safe and controlled prescription of these medicines in the UK.

    What is Releaf?

    Releaf is a leading clinic in the UK's medical cannabis sector. With a team of specialist doctors, Releaf assesses patients for suitability for medical cannabis treatment and provides prescriptions for cannabis-based medicinal products where appropriate.

    What is the role of medical cannabis in patient care?

    The role of medical cannabis in patient care is complex and multifaceted. Cannabis-based medicinal products come in a variety of forms, each with potential therapeutic applications. These products range from cannabis oil, which typically contains both THC and CBD, to CBD oil, a CBD product that contains only CBD. Other forms of medicinal products include capsules, oral sprays, and topical creams.

    Cannabis-based medicine has shown promise in treating a range of conditions, most notably certain forms of epilepsy. High-profile cases involving children with severe forms of epilepsy, such as Dravet Syndrome, highlighted the potential benefits of cannabis-based medicinal products. These patients experienced a significant reduction in seizure frequency, sparking a wave of public sympathy and leading to the Chief Medical Officer for England's comprehensive review of the medicinal use of cannabis.

    When is medical cannabis prescribed?

    Prescribing cannabis-based medicinal products is a complex process. The prescription of such products is typically considered when other treatment options have been exhausted or are unsuitable for the patient. There is a distinction between a cannabis prescription and an NHS prescription. NHS prescriptions are for medicines that have been approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and are usually subsidised, making them more affordable for patients. In contrast, cannabis prescriptions are often provided privately, as most cannabis-based medicinal products are not currently approved by NICE for use in the NHS. This means that the cost of these medicines is often borne by the patient.

    What are the benefits of medical cannabis?

    The potential benefits of medical cannabis are wide-ranging. The most substantial body of evidence supports the use of cannabis-based medicine for conditions such as chronic pain, including neuropathic pain, and epilepsy. For many patients living with these conditions, traditional treatments often fall short, and medical cannabis provides an alternative avenue for relief.

    However, it is essential to understand that medicinal use of cannabis is not a one-size-fits-all solution. The effects of cannabis-based medicinal products can vary widely between individuals due to factors such as individual biology, the specific condition being treated, and the precise composition of the cannabis-based product used.

    How can medical cannabis help to treat chronic pain?

    In the context of chronic pain, medical cannabis works by interacting with the endocannabinoid system in the human body, a complex cell-signalling system involved in maintaining homeostasis. Evidence suggests that cannabis can effectively alleviate chronic pain by interacting with the receptors in this system, reducing inflammation and interrupting pain signals to the brain.

    How can medical cannabis help to treat epilepsy?

    For epilepsy, particularly severe forms such as Dravet Syndrome, cannabis-based medicinal products have demonstrated effectiveness in reducing the frequency and severity of seizures. The exact mechanisms are still not entirely understood, but it is thought that CBD, in particular, may have anticonvulsant properties.

    What side effects can medical cannabis have?

    It is crucial to bear in mind that while the potential benefits of medical cannabis are promising, they must be balanced against potential risks and side effects. Common side effects can include dizziness, dry mouth, nausea, and changes in appetite or mood. In some cases, THC can cause psychoactive side effects, including confusion or hallucinations.

    What challenges are there in the widespread use of medical cannabis?

    While the potential of medical cannabis is promising, there are still challenges and obstacles to its widespread use. These include the complexity of dosing, the long-term safety of cannabis-based medicine, societal and legal issues, and the high cost of private prescriptions.

    One of the most significant challenges is the lack of comprehensive, large-scale clinical trials investigating the long-term effects and safety of cannabis-based medicinal products. While anecdotal evidence and smaller studies point towards the therapeutic potential of these products, more extensive research is needed to confirm these findings and fully understand the long-term implications of medical cannabis use.

    This is where organisations like Drug Science come into play. Drug Science is a leading independent scientific body on drugs in the UK. They are at the forefront of promoting scientific research into cannabis and other drugs and have initiated projects like Project Twenty21 to create the UK's largest body of evidence for the effectiveness and tolerability of medical cannabis.

    In addition to scientific research, patient registries such as the UK Medical Cannabis Registry play a vital role in collecting real-world data on the use of medical cannabis. Managed by leading clinics like Releaf, these registries track patient outcomes, providing invaluable insights into the efficacy and safety of different cannabis-based medicinal products over time.

    Is medical cannabis legal in the UK?

    The legal landscape of medical cannabis in the UK is still evolving. While the law now permits specialist doctors to prescribe cannabis-based medicinal products, cannabis remains a Schedule 2 controlled drug under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001. This means that while it is legal for prescribed use, possession, supply, and production of cannabis outside of these regulations is still illegal.

    Regulation is also a significant factor when it comes to the distribution and use of cannabis-based medicinal products. For instance, it's crucial to distinguish between licensed medicine and unlicensed medicine. Licensed medicines have been officially approved for use by regulatory bodies like the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). Most cannabis-based medicinal products currently fall into the latter category of 'unlicensed medicines', as they have not yet met the regulatory standards for licensing.

    This, however, does not mean they are illegal or unsafe for use – doctors can still prescribe unlicensed medicines if they believe the treatment will benefit the patient. It does mean, though, that these treatments are often not available on the NHS and must be obtained through a private prescription.

    Cannabis-based medicine is often prescribed by doctors on the Specialist Register of the General Medical Council. These are doctors who have undergone additional training and are recognised as specialists in their field. When it comes to prescribing cannabis-based medicinal products, it's crucial that the doctor has a thorough understanding of the patient's condition and the potential benefits and risks of the treatment.

    How can patients get access to medical cannabis in the UK?

    Accessing medical cannabis in the UK is a process that involves several steps. First and foremost, a patient needs a prescription from a specialist doctor registered with the General Medical Council. Clinics like Releaf are at the forefront of patient care in this regard, with a dedicated team of specialists able to assess and prescribe cannabis-based medicinal products where appropriate.

    A consultation with a specialist at Releaf or a similar clinic will involve a comprehensive assessment of the patient's condition and medical history. The specialist will then determine whether medical cannabis might be a beneficial treatment option. The patient's informed consent is crucial at this stage. It's the specialist's responsibility to ensure the patient is fully aware of the potential benefits, risks, and costs associated with cannabis-based medicine.

    Once a patient has a medical cannabis prescription, the next step is to fill it. As most cannabis-based medicinal products are unlicensed, they are typically not available through standard pharmacies. Instead, they must be obtained through a pharmacy that can handle controlled drugs. Some clinics, like Releaf, also help patients navigate this step, ensuring the prescribed medicine is safely and legally obtained.

    How much does medical cannabis cost in the UK?

    The cost of medical cannabis treatment can vary widely, depending on the specific product and dosage prescribed. As cannabis-based medicinal products are currently not subsidised by the NHS, the cost is often borne by the patient. Some clinics offer patient support services to help navigate these costs and ensure treatment is as affordable and accessible as possible.

    What is the future of medical cannabis in the UK?

    Despite its complex regulatory landscape, the future of medical cannabis in the UK looks promising. The ongoing research conducted by organisations like Drug Science, coupled with the real-world data gathered by the UK Medical Cannabis Registry, will undoubtedly play a crucial role in shaping the future of cannabis-based medicine.

    The continued efforts of clinics like Releaf are instrumental in advancing patient care and accessibility to cannabis-based medicinal products. Through their dedicated work, patients are receiving individualised care plans that best fit their needs and conditions.

    In addition, growing public awareness and acceptance of medicinal cannabis are helping to break down societal barriers and stigmas associated with cannabis use. As this trend continues, we'll likely see more conversations about the potential benefits and risks of cannabis-based medicine, leading to better-informed patients and healthcare providers.

    Beyond patient care, the impact of the medical cannabis industry on the UK economy should not be overlooked. Prohibition Partners, a leading international cannabis consultancy, predicts that the UK medical cannabis market could be worth nearly £1 billion by 2024. This rapidly expanding market could bring significant opportunities for businesses, researchers, and patients alike.

    Conclusion

    In conclusion, the landscape of medical cannabis in the UK is a dynamic and evolving field. The legalisation of cannabis-based medicinal products in 2018 marked a significant step forward, but there is still a long way to go in terms of research, regulation, and accessibility.

    Key to this progress is the ongoing work of organisations like Drug Science and clinics like Releaf, who are dedicated to advancing our understanding and use of medical cannabis. Equally important is the continued dialogue between patients, healthcare providers, and policymakers. As our understanding of cannabis-based medicinal products grows, so too should our conversation about how best to regulate, prescribe, and use these products.

    For patients seeking information about medical cannabis, the best first step is to consult with a healthcare provider. Doctors registered with the General Medical Council, especially those on the Specialist Register, are well-equipped to discuss the potential benefits and risks associated with cannabis-based medicine. Clinics like Releaf can provide comprehensive consultations and care plans tailored to individual patient needs.

    While the path to broader acceptance and use of medical cannabis may still be complex, the potential benefits for patient care are significant. For many patients living with chronic conditions, cannabis-based medicinal products offer a beacon of hope - an alternative treatment option that could significantly improve their quality of life. As we look towards the future of medical cannabis in the UK, this patient-focused perspective should remain at the heart of the conversation.

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