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“The best years are ahead of me”: How CBD is helping this former Paralympian get back on track

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Will Smith competed at the 2014 Commonwealth Games

A Paralympian who competed at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow aims to return to professional wheelchair racing in 2021 – and he says CBD is helping him get there.

Will Smith, 25, from Northallerton, suffers from Spina Bifida, a lifelong spinal condition which means he has no use of his lower limbs.

At the age of eight years old, he competed for the first time in wheelchair racing athletics and has since represented Team GB, becoming a decorated Paralympian who was tipped to follow in the footsteps of his mentor, six-time gold medallist David Weir CBE.

Following a successful stint competing for the national team, both at a junior and senior level, Will side-lined his competitive wheelchair athletics to study law at university.

“I partly decided to go [to University] because I was always interested in the academic side of things while I was training and competing, but I also wanted to move down to London, because that’s where my training base was,” Will tells Cannabis Health.

“I managed to balance the training and studying at the same time, but as I was really enjoying the degree I was studying, I thought I’d like to really make a go of it.

“The training dropped off a little bit so I could focus on my degree and now I’ve graduated and landed my first job in the legal sector, I’m starting to increase my training again.”

Now working in the trademark department at the UK Intellectual Property Office, Will is undertaking an increasingly tough training schedule as he builds towards competitive racing again in 2021.

He has been using a CBD to combat the aches and pains induced by a gruelling training routine, as he targets a return to competitive racing.

“I plan to enter some domestic competitions by the middle of next year and then hopefully to kick on into the winter. I see the spring of the year after that as a benchmark to properly get back into the sport,” Will adds.

Former Paralympian, Will Smith.

 

While working to get his fitness levels back to competitive standards, Will has become reacquainted with the challenge of injuries and niggles that come with the territory of wheelchair racing.

Wrist injuries are common, as the sport requires a demanding clenched-fist technique on the push rims of the wheelchair.

Finding that these injuries and strains had a negative effect on both his training and his concentration in his day job, Will started using a pain-relieving CBD topical gel, applying it to his wrists, back of his neck and upper shoulder area before and after sessions.

He instantly noticed a benefit to his training capacity, completing longer sessions and recovering from his training at a quicker pace than usual.

“With wheelchair racing, you tend to see athletes really struggle with wrist injuries and shoulder impairments,” Will explains.

“Our bodies aren’t designed to do what we do in terms of the training and the force that we need to generate through these parts of the body.

“I’ve previously had wrist and shoulder injuries, so I would use it initially as a preventative measure before a session. I would put it onto the wrist areas and found that I could train at a higher intensity for a little bit longer without necessarily feeling those common pains that I usually get.”

He adds: “I’d also use it for niggles that I felt when the day’s finished to help with the recovery. With the training that’s required for elite athletes, time is extremely precious and valuable. The ability to use it as many times as you need without the need for a physio is something I’ve really benefited from.”

CBD treatments for athletes are not uncommon in the marketplace since the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) removed the anti-inflammatory cannabis compound from its prohibited substances list in 2018.

Looking back to this time, Will remembers a stigma surrounding the supplement and a hesitation among the sporting community.

“There was definitely a kind of hesitancy,” he recalls.

“And with British Athletics being my governing body, they were obviously really conscious and tight on what you put into your body. I think now, as the market grows and expands, people are becoming more aware of the legitimate high-quality products on the market and some of the real benefits that people can enjoy from it.”

Despite growing awareness of the supplement and a widening choice of products, it was difficult for Will to find a compliant solution. Many CBD brands claimed to have products with low-THC without certification. As professional athletes are subject to THC testing, making many of these options were unusable for him.

In the end, Will settled on the brand, Biosportart, which has undertaken third-party certification from the Banned Substances Control Group (BSCG), confirming their products contain absolutely no THC, making it a safe option for elite performers like Will.

“Before I found this gel, there just were not quality products out there with the third-party verification that you could trust,” Will says.

“WADA removed CBD from the prohibited substance list, but they are very clear that any other residue of the cannabis plant, not just THC, is illegal.”

Will’s targeted comeback for 2021-22 will be welcome after a frustrating year in light of the COVID-19 climate. At 25, he feels confident that he is yet to achieve his athletic peak. There are still records to be beaten, as he still seeks to fulfil and surpass expectations that he will be the next David Weir of the sport.

“2020 has been a pretty trying time for everyone and of course I’m just thankful that I have my health, but like most people, quietly hoping that things get back to normality soon. Ultimately, I’d like to get back to the level I was at and of course, exceed it,” he says.

“I think the beauty of wheelchair racing is that it’s a real endurance and power-based sport, so we find that the guys who compete at the top level tend to peak in their late 20s or early 30s.

“I’m lucky that at my age, I’m still considered to have my best years ahead of me.”

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Ireland to fund patient’s medical cannabis up front

Campaigner Vera Twomey described “relief” that her determination has finally paid off.

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Ava Barry medical cannabis patient
Vera Twomey's daughter, Ava Barry has a severe from of epilepsy which is helped by medical cannabis

Campaigner Vera Twomey has described her “relief” as the Irish Government agrees to fund medical cannabis patient’s prescriptions up front.

Eligible medical cannabis patients in Ireland will now have their medication paid for up front, after months of pressure on the Government from campaigners. 

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly announced on Monday 19 July that the refund system for patients who obtain their prescribed cannabis-based products from the Netherlands, will now be replaced by a direct payment system.

The HSE will pay the dispensing pharmacy in the Netherlands directly, rather than the burden falling to the patients and their families, who were then required to apply for a refund.

Vera Twomey, whose daughter Ava Barry, 11, has a severe form of epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome, is among 40 patients who have now been granted an individual ministerial licence to import Bedrocan oil to Ireland.

But the family were paying 10,000 Euros up front every three months for Ava’s prescription and waiting up to five weeks for it to be refunded.

Campaigner Vera Twomey is “delighted” by the news

Twomey, who has four other children, has previously spoken of the huge financial strain this system placed on her family.

Over the last 16 months she has relentlessly called for action, making dozens of phone calls daily to politicians and lobbying ministers on social media with the backing of thousands of supporters in Ireland and across the world.

Twomey, who received a phone call from Ireland’s Prime Minister, Micheál Martin on Monday confirming the news, says she is “delighted” that her determination has finally paid off.

“There’s a sense of relief that we have accomplished this, but also a little bit of shock because we have been trying to resolve it for so long,” she told Cannabis Health.

Twomey’s activism gained national attention in 2017 when she walked from her home in Cork to Leinster House in Dublin to ask former Health Minister Simon Harris to grant access to medical cannabis for her daughter. 

Initially having to travel to the Netherlands to collect the prescription herself, during the pandemic Twomey successfully campaigned to secure the permanent delivery of Bedrocan oils for Ava and other patients.

Now she says she is looking forward to focusing on her family and putting the phone down for a while.

“I don’t think anybody who has gone through this fight, seeing the injustice that we have had to deal with could ever walk away,” she said.

“But at the same time, I’ve made a lot of sacrifices and for the moment at least, I need to give 100 percent to my other children, to do normal things and be a family.”

But the fight in Ireland isn’t over.

The Irish Government announced the provision of funding for the Medical Cannabis Access Programme (MCAP) in January – almost two years after it was introduced – but only four low dose cannabis-based medicines are covered by the programme, for people living with one of three qualifying conditions.

“There are other issues – we still need expansion and improvement in medical cannabis access, the journey is over by any means, but we’re at the beginning and getting Bedrocan recognised as a medicine that is funded up front is very important.

“I think the Irish are actually miles ahead of the British on this one and I hope [politicians] will take notice and catch up.” 

She added: “The greatest gift you’ll ever receive is to lose your fear, then you can accomplish anything with focus and determination.

“If you have the determination to keep going you will get there. It’s not going to be easy, they are not going to make it easy but it can be done.”

Patients eligible for the direct payment system are those suffering from one of three stated conditions; spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, intractable nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy and severe, refractory (treatment-resistant) epilepsy. 

The HSE says it will be contacting patients directly.

Health Minister, Mr Donnelly, commented: “I am delighted that the HSE and Transvaal Apotheek in the Netherlands are implementing a new process which will give peace of mind to the seventeen patients and their families who until now have been using the refund process.”

 

 

 

 

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Kanabo’s cannabis vaporiser for metered dosing launches in UK

The VapePod will give thousands of UK patients access to pain relief in a metered dose.

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Kanabo cannabis Vapepod
The VapePod can administer a measured dose of cannabis extract

Cannabis company Kanabo’s new extract formula and vaporiser will give thousands of UK patients access to pain relief in a metered dose.

UK patients will be the first in Europe to have access to Kanabo’s vaporiser, the VapePod, and its new extract formula when is it delivered later this month.

The deal, in conjunction with LYPHE Group, will see patient’s of LYPHE Group’s ecosystem, including The Medical Cannabis Clinic and Dispensary Green, able to access the VapePod under the brand name NOIDECS.

Under the agreement, PharmaCann and Kanabo established a customised production line for Kanabo’s VapePods cartridges.

An alternative to cannabis flower

The VapePod is a medical-grade, handheld vaporiser which enables accurate and precise micro doses of cannabis extract, dispensing 1mg of formula for each inhalation.

This will benefit to patients as inhaling extracts rather than tinctures and oils allows for faster onset and higher bioavailability.

It will also allow clinicians to more confidently prescribe and monitor a patient’s dosage, as well as providing more accurate patient data.

Previously, cannabis patients in the UK have only been able to access medical cannabis dry flower and oil tinctures for which the majority of patients consume via inhalation due to fast onset time.

Kanabo’s medical line aims to enable patients to move away from the harmful act of smoking medical cannabis flowers as they can now take their medicine without inhaling soot, tar and carcinogens into the lungs.

Kanabo founder, Avihu Tamir

Avihu Tamir, Kanabo’s CEO, said: “The VapePod is a world first allowing specialist consultants to prescribe a metered dose of medicinal cannabis that is healthier for patients than the alternative, which is typically smoking.

“Medical cannabis is a safer alternative to the conventional opiate solutions and other pain management treatments. This announcement ensures that thousands of UK patients have access to the most effective medicinal cannabis delivery system.

“The fact that the VapePod gives exactly 1mg on every inhalation is crucial for GPs because they can prescribe an exact dose which they haven’t been able to do before. For patients who want the similarity to smoking but know they are not inhaling soot and tar. There’s also the bioavailability factor too.

“The reason GPs haven’t been prescribing is the issue of dosing and flowers – they don’t feel comfortable asking patients to smoke. With Kanabo, they can prescribe exact dosing in a safe and consistent way.”

The medical extract formula, which is based on the Israeli medical cannabis pharmacopoeia as a recommendation for the treatment of pain management, has a purity of 70 percent THC with 15 percent minor cannabinoids and terpenes.

Earlier this year Kanabo became the second cannabis company to list on the London Stock Exchange.

Dean Friday, LYPHE’s CEO commented: “Kanabo are experts in novel delivery with their VapePod greatly improving onset times, and for our chronic pain patients we now have an alternative to flower vaporisation. This is the start of a revolution in medical cannabis application and we are delighted to be supplying it under the NOIDECS brand.”

 

 

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Mental health

Cancer survivors turn to cannabis for physical and mental health – study

Cancer survivors are more likely to use cannabis to help pain, anxiety, sleep and nausea. 

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cancer
Cancer survivors are more likely to use cannabis to help pain, anxiety, sleep and nausea. 

Cancer survivors are frequently using cannabis to manage physical and mental health symptoms, says a new study.

Research from the US indicates that cancer survivors are more likely to use cannabis for symptoms such as pain, anxiety, trouble sleeping and nausea. 

A team of investigators analysed results from a Covid-19 cannabis health study to examine changes to cannabis use, methods of cannabis delivery, and coping strategies among cancer survivors since the pandemic.

They found that individuals with a history of cancer are more likely to report cannabis use to manage mental health and pain symptoms.

This group of people were also more likely to report fear of a Covid-19 diagnosis, compared to adults without a history of cancer.

Data was collected from 158 responses between 21 March 2020 and 23 March 2021, from cancer survivors who identified as medicinal cannabis users.

These were then compared to medicinal cannabis users without a history of cancer of the same age.

According to the study, cancer survivors were more likely to report using cannabis as a way of managing nausea/vomiting, headaches or migraines, seizures, sleep problems or as an appetite stimulant.

Specifically, self-reported symptoms most frequently managed by medicinal cannabis among respondents included anxiety and pain. 

Sixty one percent of respondents with a history of cancer used cannabis to manage anxiety symptoms and 54 percent for chronic pain.

Forty eight percent said they used it to manage depressive symptoms and 25 percent for PTSD, while smaller numbers used it for symptoms of another autoimmune disease, and irritable bowel syndrome. 

While there were no differences in how often they used cannabis or their method of administration, cancer survivors were “more likely to have an advanced supply of cannabis”. 

The findings support the need for more conversations between doctors and their patients about the use of cannabis, say those behind the study.

The authors concluded: “Overall, we observed that cancer survivors are frequently reporting the use of cannabis to manage both physical and mental health symptoms associated with their cancer diagnosis and that cancer survivors are more likely to report fear of a Covid-19 diagnosis compared to those without a history of cancer. 

“Given the frequency of mental and physical health symptoms reported among cancer survivors during the Covid-19 pandemic period, clinician–patient interactions should include questions around cannabis use, particularly those with a history of cancer.”

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