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Medical cannabis could help long-term effects of COVID-19, says David Nutt

Medical cannabis could play an important role in combatting the long-term health problems associated with COVID-19, says David Nutt, former government drug advisor and professor of Neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London.

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“What I find disappointing with the current government response is that we know that the long-term consequences COVID aren’t going to be chronic lung disease, they’re going to be psychiatric problems.

“We’ve already got a massive rise in the number of healthcare professionals, and people who’ve had COVID, with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We haven’t got very good treatments for PTSD, and cannabis is a potential treatment, particularly nightmares and flashbacks. Why don’t we start trying medical cannabis in these people?”

However, Nutt concedes that there are numerous barriers to overcome before medical cannabis could be used readily, for COVID-19 or any other health issues. 

“Very few people in Britain using medical cannabis are getting it through the NHS or a private prescriber, many are getting it through the black market. That’s unacceptable – people don’t know what they’re getting and are running the risk of a conviction if they get caught,” Nutt says. 

The UK’s medical cannabis regulations are “backwards,” despite the fact it could be the most important revelation in medicine over the lifetime of doctors practicing today, he says. 

Since changing the law in November 2018 to allow specialist doctors to prescribe medical cannabis, the government has “taken away with one hand and given with the other hand, in a series of perverse and bureaucratic hurdles”.

Nutt described the series of changes needed to get medical cannabis to those who need it at this week’s Prohibition Partners online event. 

Since November 2018, no NHS doctor has prescribed cannabis to a patient, which Nutt says is because practitioners have very little independence.

“The NHS is very monolithic organisation,” he says. “Every person in the NHS comes under a spotlight – if a doctor in Cornwall prescribes cannabis, someone in the Department of Health knows about it and questions can be put to bear. This has extinguished individual creativity and thought in doctors.”

Instead, the prescribing of medical cannabis should be opened up to GPs, Nutt argues, because they “see the value” in it. 

“Specialists, by their nature, tend to be more academic, more concerned about doing things differently, whereas GPs are in the real world, they have to help people and reduce suffering.”

More widely, Nutt blames bureaucracy for the lack of progress in the UK with allowing patients access to medical cannabis.

“Maybe part of it is that, reluctantly, patients dragged [the government] into a new world and they’re clinging onto the fact that if we make difficult for long enough people will give up, partly because of bureaucracy, and there’s no coordinated decision-making.”

In March this year the government changed import restrictions to allow patients with prescriptions faster access to medical cannabis. However, Nutt argues that the government needs to liberate imports and import a year’s supply into the UK at a time to allow for continuity.

There are concerns doing so would leak cannabis onto the unregulated ‘black’ market, but, Nutt argues, this market is already saturated and the benefits would outweigh the costs. 

Responsibility for drug control, he adds, should be taken from the Home Office and given to the Department of Health. 

“We’re one of the few countries in the world that divides decision-making about cannabis between two government departments – getting two government departments to agree on anything is very difficult,” he says. 

Nutt argues that medical cannabis will save the NHS money, and that the current cost of not properly prescribing medical cannabis in the UK is driven of bureaucracy. 

“If we liberated importation, got rid of the scheduled two status and maybe make it schedule four, if we had a rational approach to the regulation and stopped being so hysterical and fearful about it, it would halve the cost. There’s so much cost involved in importation and regulations.”

Nutt is chair of the Drug Science’s Medical Cannabis Working Group, comprising stakeholders from patient organisations, academics and industry members, with the remit to develop and research and policies for the UK. 

Last year, Nutt set up TWENTY21, which has since published a number of policy documents, including one looking at clinical approaches to prescribing medical cannabis, and a pending report looking at potential dependence of medical cannabis compared to recreational cannabis use. The group is also developing teaching materials for doctors. 

“We’re aware that most doctors don’t have an understanding of cannabis medicines,” Nutt says, who have spent years “vilifying them as dangerous drugs that cause psychosis and dependence”.

“Getting doctors to change from that prohibitionist view is challenging, and the way to do it is to educate them, which is difficult, but less difficult than educating med students.”

Nutt has set up groups of medical students in different medical schools to educate doctors on medical cannabis. 

Also, last year Nutt launched the project TWENTY21, an initiative of prescribing medical cannabis for anxiety disorder, chronic pain epilepsy, MS, PTSD, substance use disorder and Tourette’s syndrome, overseen by academic experts working voluntarily, who are collecting data on the treatments. 

“Let’s see if we can get prescribing set up in a way which is useful in terms of gathering data and monitoring potential harms of these drugs, and hopefully it’ll assuage some of fears of psychosis development and dependence,” Nutt says. 

There are currently 7,000 people signed up to the registry, and Nutt aims to get 20,000 patients signed up by the end of 2021. They each pay £150 per month, which is estimated to be what they’d be paying through the unregulated market. 

Researchers will collect data about their quality of life and self-reported outcomes, and can follow patients up for up to two years. 

“One of the things that became clear when talking to patients who use medical cannabis is that they find it very helpful but doctors aren’t interested in what they think. We think patients should be driving this,” Nutt says. 

The registry has built a network of independent prescribers, and has trained 15 doctors so they can prescribe “in a sensible, evidence-based way,” Nutt says.

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Case Studies

“At 83, CBD gave me my spirit back” says grandmother-of-two

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Carla Shrive says CBD has given her a "new life"

Carla Shrive suffers from severe arthritis along with other health issues. When the pain started to impact her sleep, day-to-day life and wellbeing, her son stepped in and introduced her to CBD.

Now, the 83-year-old grandmother-of-two is off all prescription medicines apart from paracetamol and is managing her health conditions through CBD alone.

“About three years ago, I joined Slimming World,” Carla recalls.

“I had put weight on and was feeling really down. When I joined, there were tears in my eyes because I felt ashamed of myself for how big I was.

“I started to go to the sessions, but I was very much in pain. I had to do something about it because my bones were so painful; I couldn’t walk at the time.”

Her son, Paul Shrive, who runs the company CBD Leafline, recognised how much discomfort his mother was in and recommended she try CBD.

“She was taking tablets for arthritis pain and blood pressure, she was taking anti-depressants, her hair was falling out, and she used to take a minimum of eight paracetamol a day,” Paul says.

“It got to a point on one day where she couldn’t get out of bed as her knee was all inflamed. She was in absolute agony, getting barely any sleep and her diet was all over the place.

“She was really suffering.”

Paul gave his mother a 1000mg tincture of whole plant CBD and told her to take twice a day.

“My son came to me and said ‘look, mum to help you out with your pains, I’ve found you some CBD so you might try it’,” Carla continues.

“I was curious about it; I wanted to know more, so I read some leaflets and because I have great faith in my son, I trusted his recommendation.”

After just four days, Carla started to see improvements to her health. She was having a full night’s sleep for the first time in months, her complexion improved and the arthritis in her hands started to get better.

Several months after her first dose of CBD, she is walking again and finding daily tasks such as cooking much easier.

“It’s marvellous, 18 months ago, I couldn’t walk like I do, I wasn’t very happy at all and hated all the medication I was taking,” she says.

“But since I started CBD, there has been no need for it.

“I’m walking a lot now, which I couldn’t do before and the pain just isn’t there anymore. It’s nagging from time to time, but it doesn’t bother me as much at all.”

Carla says she has her “spirit back” since taking CBD and believes it has given her a “new life”.

“I feel happy; it’s given me a great chance to live again,” she adds.

“At 83, I feel young, especially at heart.”

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‘Medical cannabis was my daughter’s last hope – I wouldn’t dream of taking it away from her now’

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Tannie and her daughter Indie-Rose

Cannabis medicine was Tannine’s last hope when she boarded a plane to the Netherlands with her severely epileptic daughter. But now Brexit regulations threaten to take that away, she tells Sarah Sinclair. 

Indie-Rose, now six, had her first seizure in her high chair at four months old.

“I’d never seen anything like it in my life. I was petrified I didn’t know what to do,” says Indie’s mum Tannine Montgomery.

Doctors reassured Tannine it was just a febrile convulsion, a fit that can happen in babies as a result of a fever or spike in temperature. Although she was shaken by it, she wasn’t overly concerned.

“I was really scared about what I had seen, but we took her home and I thought to myself she’s going to be fine, it’s just one of those things,” she says.

“But Indie didn’t stop seizing. The seizures progressed quickly and she was soon having a lot of them. We were constantly calling an ambulance.”

Even when doctors told Tannine that they thought her daughter had epilepsy, she was still hopeful that she would lead a normal life. 

“I knew nothing about epilepsy at the time, I’d never seen anyone have an epileptic seizure, but I thought we would get some medicine and Indie would be able to live a normal life. I was quite hopeful that’s what would happen,” she admits.

Indie was prescribed various antiepileptic drugs, none of which managed to keep her seizures under control, and underwent a number of tests, from MRI scans to lumbar punctures while still just a few months old.

Her doctors eventually discovered a gene mutation related to Dravet syndrome, a rare but severe form of epilepsy, which along with uncontrollable seizures causes a number issues such as cognitive decline, hypermobility and problems with movement and walking.

By the age of two Indie had begun to show signs of Dravet syndrome, her development had halted and she lost her ability to talk, but it was the contrast seizures which were leaving her most at risk.

“By the time Indie was three, we were eight antiepileptic drugs down and still nothing stopped her seizures,” says Tannine.

“We were still calling ambulances constantly and I just couldn’t see that for her for the rest of her life.”

For the next year Tannine dedicated any spare time that she could to researching medical cannabis. 

“I’d heard it could help but if I was going to give it to my daughter I wanted to make sure I was giving her something safe and I wanted to make sure that I was being legal – I didn’t want to risk my daughter being taken off me,” she says.

Tannine eventually met the founders of a UK CBD company, who showed her around the facility, explained the extraction process and gave her some oil to try with Indie.

“For three weeks it sat in my cupboard, because I was too scared to use it,” she remembers.

“Finally, Indie had this awful night with so many seizures. I opened the cupboard to get her normal medication and saw the CBD oil. I thought, ‘I’ve got nothing to lose’.”

Indie-Rose

Ten days later Indie ran down the garden for the first time. 

“It was amazing, we’d never seen her run,” says Tannine.

“Indie’s dad and I, just looked at each other and realised this stuff was actually helping her.

“From that point on we started trying to get her a prescription, so we had guidance from doctors and could make sure we were giving her a therapeutic dose.”

With cannabis still illegal in the UK, even for medical purposes, Tannine contacted the Erasmus Hospital in Rotterdam, where a paediatrician agreed to prescribe Indie the whole plant cannabis oil Bedrolite.

With Indie’s condition at its worst Tannine left her eleven-month-old son with his grandmother and travelled to the Netherlands in a bid to save her daughter.

“She was having seizures on the aeroplane. I was petrified, but I felt like it was my last hope,” she says.

“As much as people could say it was unsafe to take her, Indie had seizures every day. I would never have got her out of the country and I needed to get access to this treatment.”

The next day Tannine took Indie to her appointment with the pediatric neurologist and collected her prescription from a local pharmacy.

“It was just a regular pharmacy selling paracetamol and other medicines, it was amazing that we could just go to the pharmacy and collect it,” she adds.

After one day on the medicine Indie slept through the night. After four days she had had no seizures at all. When Tannine’s partner arrived to join them with their son, Indie played with her little brother for the first time. 

“I remember him standing at the doorway of this Airbnb and she ran up to him to tickle him. Up until then it was like she hadn’t even known he existed,” says Tannine.

“We could see straight away how this was helping her interact and function so much better.” 

The family put their lives on hold and spent three months in the Netherlands, unable to return to the UK with Indie’s medicine. Tannine describes the experience as like “living in lockdown”.

“We were there for just over three months, but it felt like forever,” she says. 

“It was traumatic, it certainly wasn’t a holiday. We didn’t have money to spend on sightseeing, it was all for Indie’s medicine and the whole time I was fundraising to be able to afford to keep her on it, because it’s not cheap.”

Eventually Indie was granted a licence to import Bedrolite to the UK through a private prescription and in November 2018 the law changed to legalise medical cannabis.

But Tannine continued to campaign for NHS access, with no option but to rely on donations for Indie, having spent over £30,000 on her prescription fees to date.

It was this that drove her to launch her own CBD company last year to help fund Indie’s medicine, as well as supporting others in similar circumstances. 

“Unfortunately, when a bottle of Bedrolite oil is £160 for 10ml and your child’s using two of them a week, that’s not attainable for anyone who’s just holding down a normal job,” she says.

“I didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere with the government and I didn’t want to have to rely on fundraising forever.”

Tannine saved up out of her benefits and began making her own products, using a 10 percent cannabis oil, similar to Bedrolite, but with lower levels of THC and legal in the UK.

“I had a lot of good feedback and that’s when I decided that this is something I could do to provide Indie with what she needs and help people at the same time,” she says.

“I wanted to create an authentic company built on love for my child and my desire to help other people who have to suffer the way she does. 

“This isn’t prescription medication, but each person is so individual in what works for them when it comes to cannabis, it’s always worth trying something. When I get a text message from a mother who says her daughter stood up for the first time, it makes my day. 

“There isn’t anything in this world that can make me feel better than improving a child’s life.”

Indie hasn’t been hospitalised for three years since she began taking the Bedrolite, she hasn’t needed any rescue medication or pharmaceuticals and last year her attendance in school was 96 percent. 

However Brexit has left Indie and dozens of other patients without access to the life-saving medication. 

The family were given just two weeks notice after the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) sent a letter to importers, clinics and patient groups, stating that prescriptions issued in the UK ‘can no longer be lawfully dispensed in an EU Member State’ from 1 January, 2021.

Those prescribed Bedrocan oils through the Transvaal pharmacy based in the Netherlands, have been advised to find “alternatives”. But as many experts have warned, switching these children’s medications could be life-threatening. 

Plant and cannabis expert Dr Callie Seaman told Cannabis Health that with over 565 different secondary metabolites in cannabis plants, each batch is subtly different, let alone each product or supplier. And consistency is vital in the treatment of severe epilepsy. 

“For patients taking medical cannabis for palliative care and other diseases, a switch in oil is not the end of the world, but what’s needed with epilepsy is consistency,” she explained.

“Any neurologist will tell you that when you find something which works, you have to stick with it. As soon as you start changing things that’s when the issues arise, and any seizure comes with the risk of death.”

Indie still lives with disabilities as a result of her condition, but the seizures she has are much less severe. 

The fact her medication is at risk is an added worry for Tannine, who says if the legislation surrounding the import of cannabis medicines from the Netherlands doesn’t change they fear her condition could worsen. 

“She’s doing so much better than she was,” she adds.

“I couldn’t dream of taking it away from her now.”

 

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The ultimate CBD Christmas gift guide

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The best CBD Christmas gifts

Looking for last-minute ideas for a loved one? We’ve found the gifts that keep on giving this Christmas.

Thanks to what has been a fairly stressful year for everyone, sales of CBD have exploded in 2020, with more and more people turning to the cannabinoid to quell Covid-related anxiety, help them sleep and generally boost their wellbeing.

One thing that has become clear, is that interest spans all ages and demographics – from the older generation looking to ease symptoms of arthritis to athletes recognising its potential for aiding recovery.

And with an ever-expanding marketplace of CBD-infused goods up for grabs, this Christmas there’s a product for everyone – whether they are a seasoned user or haven’t yet taken plunge. We’ve curated some of our favourites to put a smile on their face on Christmas day.

 

Love Hemp Christmas bundles

From £81.96
Love Hemp has crafted a festive assortment of Christmas-flavoured CBD oils and perfectly packaged bundles which are aimed at supporting wellbeing and boosting self-care. Choose from Candy Cane or Gingerbread flavours to get you in the spirit of things. The Cosy Night In bundle also comes with 300mg body salve, cellulose face mask and dark chocolate CBD treats.

The CBD Book

£12.99
This is a bookshelf essential for anyone who wants to find out more about CBD. It is packed with research and insight into how CBD can be used to help manage a range of health conditions, as well as where to start when it comes to choosing the right product for you and how best to take it to reap the benefits. A gorgeous stocking filler for the ‘CBD curious’.

Sweet Pink Relax and Restore hamper

£40.00
After a tough year, treat your nearest and dearest to a much-needed pamper over the festive period. This Relax and Restore hamper from Sweet Pink CBD includes Wild Orange & Bergamot Body Buzz CBD Massage Oil and a Eucalyptus & Lime CBD Bath Bomb, which will have them drifting off  to a slice of paradise – if only in their imagination – and heading into the new year feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world.

*Get 10% off Sweet Pink CBD with the code CANNABISHEALTHMAG

Holistic Highland Hemp CBD chocolate

From £4.99
Selection boxes are so 2019. Take the Christmas chocolate to the next level with a CBD-infused treat in their stocking. These 100 percent organic orange and vanilla chocolate bars are made in Scotland, rich in a full spectrum of natural cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids. The brand’s 15 percent hemp paste and acacia CBD honey also come highly recommended.

The Grass Roots ritual collection


£279.99
The perfect luxury gift for the skincare enthusiast or anyone feeling like they’ve lost their sparkle. The entire Grass Roots Skin range is made with active ingredients, including CBD to target inflammation, soothe the skin and reduce redness. For anyone looking to change-up their routine and inject some life back into their daily skin rituals, this will have them glowing again in no time.

Ardoa’s Indigo 66 CBD oil


£119.99
Give a loved one the gift of a good night’s sleep this Christmas – isn’t that what we all want after 2020? Ardoa’s S-drops Indigo66 features a unique blend of cannabinoids that has been specifically formulated for night-time use. It uses organic hemp seed oil and has quite an Earthy taste – which some will like more than others – but if you’re looking for a potent night time CBD product it doesn’t come much better than this.

*Shop here with 10% off Indigo 66 for Cannabis Health readers

Maria and Craig’s CBD Botanical Spirit

£22.99
This non-alcoholic premium botanical spirit is perfect for the teetotaller in your life or anyone contemplating taking on Dry January. Maria &Craig’s features a blend of premium CBD isolate with distilled sage, chamomile, juniper, orange blossom and other natural botanicals. Pour over ice and add tonic to enhance those social moments without the after-effects of alcohol.

Pothead CBD coffee and mug gift set


£29.95
Ideal for those lazy mornings over the festive period. Each cup of Pot Head’s CBD coffee is made using organic hemp extract and arabica coffee beans and a serving contains approximately 10mg of CBD as well other cannabinoids. For the self-confessed ‘Pot Head’ in your life.

Medivita Intimate CBD lubricant


£32.00
Many have reported that CBD lubricant has made a huge difference to their sexual wellbeing, having been found to increase blood flow, provide pain relief and help people relax in those intimate moments. Whether they suffer from painful sex, dryness or simply want to heighten their pleasure, this is a gift you can be sure they’ll thank you for.

Mood & Bears CBD honey

From £25.50
What better way to take the edge off these cold winter mornings than with a dollop of CBD-infused honey on your porridge? These honeys from health food brand Mood & Bears are available in 227g jars with 500mg CBD, and 340g jars with 1000mg CBD. The Organic collection is designed to boost sleep, energy and positivity, while the Natural range aims to encourage relaxation, happiness and peace. Sounds dreamy.

Pure Sport CBD Gift Box


£149
For the athlete or sports person in your life, this gift box from Pure Sport CBD will give them a taste of the type products on offer to aid their recovery. Designed to relieve aches and pains, benefit sleep & anxiety and aid in relaxation and performance, Pure Sport CBD oil is one of the few brands which is Banned Substance Control Group Certified (BSCG) so is 100% free from THC & contaminants and safe for drug tests.

Colorado High CBD gin


£40.00
Featuring premium quality CBD oil sourced from hemp grown in the Rockies in Colorado, gin lovers will enjoy this intriguing spirit, which capitalises on the subtle flavour of CBD, with citrus notes similar to grapefruit. Its cloudiness is a natural consequence of the high quantity of CBD within it – one double measure is sufficient for an optimum chilled gin drinking experience.

Cured Rise daytime CBD supplement, 180mg


£49.99
These daily capsules from Cured Nutrition, designed to boost energy and focus – while being completely caffeine and stimulant free – will be a welcome addition to their routine come the dreary January days, when we all need a little pick-me-up. Each three capsule serving delivers 9mg of CBD extract as well as a carefully selected blend of herbal supplements and vitamins to start the day off right.

Mr NICE, Gold Gift Box


£100
From Mr NICE – Europe’s first cannabis lifestyle store in Soho, London – The Gold gift box includes Vegan CBD gummies, Peace CBD bath bomb, CBD chocolate, CBD coffee, and CBD 5 percent oil and is the ultimate gift for the CBD-lover in your life, who will love unwrapping this on Christmas Day.

Kloris Superboost Face Oil

£30.00
The Superboost Face Oil was made to keep skin hydrated and protected against the winter elements. Featuring traces of squalane, which is known to have anti-aging properties, cannabis sativa seed oil to lock in moisture and cucumber seed oil, which supports cell regeneration. Recommended to be used alongside your daily skincare routine to keep you glowing throughout the January blues.

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