The Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC) has called for the government to re-assess current access to medical Cannabis products, following the publication of results from their recent survey. The industry body claims that the survey’s findings highlight an urgent need to review current policy around the issue.
Key findings from the YouGov survey – commissioned by the CMC – were announced back in November. The publication of the full report, however, was published on 13th January, providing more context to the results. The survey revealed that 2.8% of the adult population in the UK (England, Scotland, Wales) used illegal Cannabis products to self-medicate diagnosed health conditions.
Respondents were instructed to include the consumption of illegal Cannabis for the relief of symptoms associated with their condition, or side effects from a prescribed treatment. The results indicate that up to 1.4 million adults in the UK may self-medicate in this way.
Among the most commonly reported conditions for which patients chose to self-medicate were Anxiety and Depression. 8.32% of 1466 anxiety sufferers reported using Cannabis in this way. 8.34% of 1630 respondents to suffer from Depression, also claimed to self-medicate with Cannabis.
However, the conditions for which the highest percentage of respondents self-medicated were Huntington’s Disease – 5 of 12 respondents (41.67%) and Schizophrenia – 14 of 34 respondents (41.18%).
The survey was carried out by YouGov, on behalf of the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis. The demographic qualities of respondents were representative of the wider UK population. This meant a relative proportion of genders, ages, social classes, and locations were represented in the results.
The results show that self-medication using Cannabis is widespread across all demographics.
The CMC acknowledges that these results don’t necessarily provide evidence of therapeutic efficacy. The results do, however, provide an insight into the number of patients in the UK potentially exposing themselves to unregulated and inconsistent ‘medicine’.
The CMC sees this as providing a precedent to improve patient access to regulated Cannabis-based medical products. According to the CMC, these results represent the first truly accurate representation of the use of Cannabis as a non-prescribed treatment among the UK population.
The figures represent a cause for concern for multiple reasons. First of all, the quality of ‘street’ Cannabis is difficult to determine. The incorporation of non-organic additives, pesticides, or other contaminants could be harmful to the user.
Secondly, the compounds found within the Cannnabis plant can pose a threat through interaction with other medications.
As stated in the recently published report:
“A proportion of patients using cannabis to treat their symptoms will do so in addition to their prescribed medication; as such, deleterious interactions may go unrecorded.”
The findings demonstrate that a significant percentage of the UK adult population is being forced to place themselves in the hands of a criminal black market. The survey shows us that patients are frustrated with the slow progress of medical Cannabis access in the UK.