Cannabidiol (CBD) has been all over the news in the last year as the UK government legalised the use of certain medical cannabis products.
But what does this mean? Can anyone buy medicinal cannabis? Does the medicine contain CBD or THC (or both)? For the answers to these pressing questions, and more, read on!
What has the government done?
In November 2018, the UK government finally allowed doctors to prescribe medications which contained cannabis. Many of these drugs treat conditions such as multiple sclerosis or epilepsy, which drastically impact quality of life. Similar medications have been used in the USA, where many young patients have been treated with great success. The media has focused on high-profile cases of patients going to extraordinary lengths to access CBD- and THC-based medications, as a last resort to manage their debilitating conditions. Police officer Lisa Quarrell broke the law repeatedly to smuggle a CBD drug for her epileptic son. The brain seizures he suffered were so severe she felt it necessary to become a criminal to access life-changing treatment. Eventually, UK Home Secretary Sajid Javed got involved to order a review of the laws. This compassionate decision by the government is backed by scientific evidence, as we will see.
A former police officer felt it necessary to smuggle a CBD-based drug from Holland to treat her son’s debilitating epilepsy.
What are these new drugs?
One specific drug, called ‘Epidyolex’, is a CBD-based medication used to treat severe epilepsy. Specifically, patients with Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut epilepsy syndrome can now be prescribed Epidyolex. Many children have these life-changing disease, which can cause painful fits and seizures for prolonged periods of time. Evidence from a US study showed that the frequency of seizures decreased when patients were treated with CBD.
Another drug, Sativex, has also been made legal in the UK. This licensed treatment is used in the management of Multiple Sclerosis. This disease causes spasticity and degradation of the nervous system. Sativex contains CBD and THC, and shows effectiveness at reducing spasticity in MS patients.
How can I get my hands on these CBD medications!
Whilst the government has made it legal for doctors to prescribe cannabis-based medications, it is rarely the first-line treatment. The UK’s prescribing regulator NICE has stopped short of recommending drugs such as Epidyolex, until more research is published. Often, the only way to get hold of such medications is through private prescription – which is both expensive and difficult.
However, times are changing. Experts believe that the legalisation of CBD medications is only the beginning in a series of liberal decisions by the UK government. Across Europe and the USA, cannabis-based drugs are beginning to enter the mainstream, as proof of their effectiveness accumulates. With new research coming out every day about the different applications of CBD as a wellness supplement, it will surely not be long before more cannabis-based medications are allowed in the UK.
Does this mean cannabis is legal?
Not yet! CBD oil is legal to sell commercially (below 0.2% THC concentration), and THC-containing products are only available by prescription from a doctor. Keep an eye on the news, that could change swiftly!