In the UK, cannabis is listed as a class B drug and it is illegal to buy, sell, or possesses it. The active ingredient in the drug is a chemical called THC which produces the effects people feel when they have ingested it. Once THC reaches the brain it effects memory, coordination, and in some cases, movement.
It’s these effects that are cause for concern. Regular users are said to be at risk from a whole host of mental problems, including anxiety, memory problems, paranoia, and depression. Other risks are present when cannabis is used with tobacco – such as heart disease and cancer.
Studies have also shown that users can become dependent on the drug and withdrawal can produce insomnia and irritability. Researchers think that long-term use of cannabis can increase the risk of schizophrenia.
Over the Pond
Despite a number of debates in parliament, cannabis remains an illegal drug. In America, however, there is a different view. Nine states, plus Washington DC, have made cannabis legal for recreational use. The thinking in those states is that if the cannabis trade can be better controlled it will make the drug safer.
Cannabis is also legal for medical use in 30 American states, although almost half only allow the use of cannabis oil with a low THC content.
In the UK, research is currently being carried out on the benefits of cannabis use for medical purposes. It is available on the NHS in some parts of the UK for sufferers of Multiple Sclerosis in the form of a drug called Sativex. This is available in the form of a spray which is put under the tongue. It is not available in England and Wales because it has been classed as too expensive by The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. NICE say that it is not a cost-effective treatment, but MS sufferers say that using the drug has improved their symptoms and therefore had a positive effect on their quality of life.
Unfortunately, the NHS ban means that Sativex is beyond the reach of many sufferers, as it markets at around £300 for 270 doses – with an average dose of between two and 12 sprays per day.
Cannabis oil has been used as a measure in the treatment of epilepsy. In fact, a doctor in Northern Ireland has prescribed the oil to 11- year old Billy Caldwell. Since he began his treatment his severe epilepsy appears to have gone into remission. Billy’s mother also said in a 2017 article in the Independent that her son’s autism also appears to have improved.
CLEAR, the cannabis law reform group have produced a booklet which highlights studies and clinical trials regarding Cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic pain, and Crohn’s disease. The overall conclusion being that the drug has a place in the treatment of certain medical conditions.
However, it remains to be seen whether the positive results of medical cannabis can sway the UK government into changing the law.