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‘I was a shadow of a person, then medical cannabis changed my life’

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A devastating car crash left Jim Finch with several life-changing neurological conditions and little hope for his future, but medical cannabis helped him find reasons to live again.

On 1 June 2018, Jim Finch was driving home from work, back to his partner and nine-month-old son, when his car was hit at speed at a junction by another driver.

He was severely injured and the head trauma he suffered left him with  chronic neurological conditions, functional neurological disorder, Tourette’s disorder and fibromyalgia.

Overnight Jim went from a healthy, 29-year-old dad, to being unable to walk or communicate properly and suffering dozens of fits and seizures a day.

He was prescribed ‘hundreds of pills’ to manage his symptoms including Tramadol, Diazepam, Codeine, Lorazepam and Sertraline, which left him, in his own words a ‘vegetable’.

“My hair fell out and I had so little energy that in between seizures and fits I couldn’t get out of bed or move from the sofa,” says the 31-year-old, who lives in Essex.

“I was a shadow of a person.”

Things came to a tragic head in January 2019, when Jim tried to take his own life.

“After the crash I was taking all sorts of medication, my head was all over the place,” he says.

“My life was a mess and I saw no way out.”

A few months later when a friend suggested he try cannabis to manage his symptoms, despite being apprehensive at first, Jim felt he had nothing to lose.

“I was wary about the legality of it and the fact that I had had some negative experiences with paranoia from using cannabis in the past, but the effects were instant, I couldn’t believe it,”he says.

The cannabis calmed Jim’s shakes and reduced his tics so he could form full sentences. Over time he found that his seizures became less and less frequent and within a month of using cannabis he had weaned himself off all of the prescription drugs he was taking.

He can spend time in the garden out of his wheelchair and play with his son, who is now three.

Jim after he discovered medical cannabis

“It has completely changed my life,” says Jim.

“I’m still housebound but I’m not bedbound. I can play with my son. I can get out in the garden, and take the dog for a walk if I’ve got a carer with me.

“Without cannabis I’m a vegetable, I don’t have control of my body. It’s given me the life back that was taken away from me.”

Just a few months earlier, in November 2018, medical cannabis had been legalised in the UK and Jim broached the subject with his doctor.

“I went to my doctor straight away and he supported me 100 percent, he couldn’t believe the change in me,” he says.

“In a way I’m quite lucky in that my conditions are so visible and it’s such an instant relief when I use my medication, that it has the power to change a lot of people’s minds about the medical benefits of cannabis, because they can see it firsthand.”

However after selling his car for £2,000 to fund a private medical cannabis prescription, Jim couldn’t afford the fees long-term and was forced to return to accessing it illicitly.

“At the moment there’s no option for me to get it legally,” he says.

“A big part of going through therapy was getting my head around the fact that now I was a criminal for wanting to be well.

“Obviously there’s a worry, anytime I hear a police siren it gets you because you think that they could be coming for me and I could be about to lose my liberty, lose my son and for what?”

Jim adds: “The criminality of it is unjust and unfair.

“I have to put my health first. The Government’s idea of healthcare is a hell, drugged up to the eyeballs on all sorts of opiates, not being able to move, losing my head, not being able to play with my kid.

“I had all these pills; one for my tics, one for my seizures, three for my pain and they all did different things – or I can have a plant that looks after it all.”

But the criminalisation of medical cannabis patients is not the only injustice at play, according to Jim. There’s also the fact that millions of people are being denied it as a viable option.

“There’s the injustice that people are going to prison for it, and there’s also an injustice that people don’t have access to it,” he says.

“There are millions of other people out there who could benefit from medical cannabis, who don’t need to be suffering as much as they are, because they haven’t been able to try it.

“People are dying from epilepsy because they haven’t had access to cannabis.”

Jim is only too aware of the impact it can have, which is why he’s speaking out.

“When you’re told something is bad, you tend to believe it,” he says.

“It’s not until you’re in these desperate situations like those of us who are sick and disabled, that you’re willing to go and try it. I just wanted to tell my story in the hope that it might help one person or change one mind.”

“It doesn’t make sense that it was okay for me to be wasted on all these prescription drugs, adds Jim.

“When I use cannabis I don’t get wasted – I’m as close to my old self as I have been since before the crash.”

 

 

 

 

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Six big cannabis sector stories you might have missed this week

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It’s been another week of big news in the cannabis world.

At Cannabis Health, our in depth coverage of the ongoing growth of cannabis as a medical and wellness product continues

Meanwhile, over at Cannabis Wealth, we’ve been following all the big industry and policy news in a week which has seen some important developments..

Been busy and want to get caught up in a hurry?

Here are the six things you need to read to stay in the loop this week.

1. Reprieve for medical cannabis patients

The Department of Health has reached an agreement with Dutch officials to extend the supply of medical cannabis oils to existing patients in the UK until 2022.

Medical cannabis patients, living with severe, life-threatening epilepsy were left without access to medication when the UK left the EU at the end of last year.

Medical cannabis

Families, whose children are prescribed Bedrocan oils in the UK but must obtain their prescription through the Transvaal pharmacy in the Netherlands, were given two weeks notice that their medication could no longer be dispensed following the end of the Brexit transition period on 31, December 2020.

Read the full story.

2. UK largest’s medical cannabis trial reports back

The first findings from the UK’s largest medical cannabis patient study show quality of life improved by more than 50 percent.

Preliminary results from Drug Science’s Project Twenty21 study, have found medical cannabis significantly improves quality of life for people with life-limiting conditions such as chronic pain, multiple sclerosis (MS) Tourette’s syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Published on Tuesday 11 May, the report is the first real-world data to be collected on medical cannabis in the UK.

Read more here.

3. Harrowing first-hand account of medical cannabis user
Diagnosed with a personality disorder and experiencing debilitating anxiety which left him housebound, Craig – whose name has been changed – had exhausted all treatment options and was losing all hope.
He speaks about how medical cannabis helped save his life here.

4. CBD market set to shrink

The UK’s CBD sector looks set to shrink significantly as the roll out of new regulations continues to batter the industry.

The FSA has confirmed to Cannabis Wealth it received applications for 803 different CBD products – but only 42 have been advanced to the next stage of the process so far.

More than half of all applications (445) were ‘incomplete’ and a further 41 have been withdrawn altogether.

Read the full story here.

5. CBD not linked to single doping case

CBD has not been linked to a single failed drugs test in UK sport despite fears about the undeclared levels of THC in some products.

The World Anti-Doping Agency removed the cannabinoid from its banned substances list in 2017 and since then several high profile athletes have publicly endorsed CBD products.

Even though CBD – which has no psychoactive properties – is not banned, the UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) still warns athletes to be cautious with treatments.

Read our exclusive report here.

6. School’s out for cannabis class

The first class on a pioneering university medical cannabis course have concluded their first year of studies.

The research programme at the Humboldt-Universitat zu Berlin examines the medical and nutritional uses of cannabis, production and the legal and economic frameworks of the business.

It’s the latest sign that medical cannabis is becoming a part of the mainstream education offering and a positive indication that new industry leaders will emerge in the coming years.

Full story here.

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Science finds a way for medical cannabis to relieve pain without side effects

Researchers have developed a molecule that allows THC to fight pain without the side effects.

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Medical cannabis
Many people living with chronic pain have found that cannabis can provide relief. 

Scientists may have developed a molecule which could allow medical cannabis to provide pain relief without any side effects.

Many people live with chronic pain, and in some cases, cannabis can provide relief. 

But the drug also can significantly impact memory and other cognitive functions. 

Now, researchers have developed a peptide that, in mice, allowed THC to fight pain without the side effects.

According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) around 20 percent of adults in the states experienced chronic pain in 2019. 

In some studies, medical cannabis has been helpful in relieving pain from migraines, neuropathy, cancer and other conditions, but the side effects can present hurdles for widespread therapeutic use.

Previously, researchers identified two peptides [molecules which are made up of amino acids] that disrupt an interaction between a receptor that is the target of THC and another that binds serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates learning, memory and other cognitive functions. 

When the researchers injected the peptides into the brains of mice, the mice had fewer memory problems caused by THC. 

Now, this team, led by Rafael Maldonado, David Andreu and colleagues, has gone one step further to improve these peptides to make them smaller, more stable, orally active and able to cross the blood-brain barrier.

Based on data from molecular dynamic simulations, the researchers designed two peptides that were less than half the length of the original ones but preserved their receptor binding and other functions. 

They also optimised the peptide sequences for improved cell entry, stability and ability to cross the blood-brain barrier. 

Then, the researchers gave the most promising peptide to mice orally, along with a THC injection, and tested the mice’s pain threshold and memory. 

Mice treated with both THC and the optimised peptide reaped the pain-relieving benefits of THC and also showed improved memory compared with mice treated with THC alone. 

Importantly, multiple treatments with the peptide did not evoke an immune response. 

Reporting in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, researchers say that these findings suggest the optimised peptide is an ideal drug candidate for reducing cognitive side effects from cannabis-based pain management.

The abstract that accompanies this paper can be viewed here.

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Dutch Government to supply medical cannabis for UK patients until 2022

The Department of Health has reached an agreement to continue the supply of Bedrocan oils

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The Dutch Government will supply medical cannabis to UK patients until 2022

The Department of Health has reached an agreement with Dutch officials to extend the supply of medical cannabis oils to existing patients in the UK until 2022.

Medical cannabis patients, living with severe, life-threatening epilepsy were left without access to medication when the UK left the EU at the end of last year. 

Families, whose children are prescribed Bedrocan oils in the UK but must obtain their prescription through the Transvaal pharmacy in the Netherlands, were given two weeks notice that their medication could no longer be dispensed following the end of the Brexit transition period on 31, December 2020. 

After outrage from campaigners, the Dutch government agreed to continue supplying the life-saving products until 1 July, 2021 while a more permanent solution was reached.

This waiver period has now been extended until 1 January, 2022.

Health ministers promised to work with officials in the Netherlands to find a “long-term” solution, but according to those at the forefront of the campaign, there is still “some way to go”.

Hannah Deacon and son Alfie Dingley

Hannah Deacon’s son Alfie Dingley, who is prescribed Bedrocan products for a rare form of epilepsy, recently celebrated one year seizure-free.

In a letter to Deacon on Thursday 13 May, the DofH said it was working with the Dutch government, Bedrocan and the Transvaal pharmacy to proceed as “quickly as possible” with the UK production of these medicines.

It added that domestic production is “complex” and that manufacturing “unlicensed herbal medicines” comes with “significant challenges”. 

Deacon said that the UK production of Bedrocan products was the “only solution”.

While other cannabis-based medicines are available in the UK, experts have warned that there is ‘significant variation’ from one product to the next and switching an epilepsy patient’s treatment could be ‘life-threatening’.

“With the 1 July deadline for Bedrolite supply to cease from the Netherlands looming ever closer, we made it clear we wanted an extension to the agreement to stop the situation becoming dangerous for Alfie and the other patients receiving this vital medicine,” commented Deacon.

“The long term solution of Bedrocan products being made in the UK still has some way to go, but it can be the only solution and we thank everyone who is working very hard to achieve this. 

“This is still a long way off from being okay, but for now we have the pressure taken off on the supply issue.”

With limited access to medical cannabis on the NHS, families are still calling for the Government to help fund their children’s prescriptions, which can cost thousands of pounds each month.

Deacon added: “The ever-pressing issue of financial burden on the many families and patients wishing to use medical cannabis in the UK remains and this is a huge issue which needs dealing with.

“There are many ways in which the Government could step in and help access for very vulnerable people and we will continue working as hard as we can to make things better for all.”

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