Drug Science’s Project Twenty21 is a landmark scheme that seeks to widen access to medicinal cannabis and build Europe’s largest body of evidence for its efficacy. In a two-part series Cannabis Health speaks to a patient and prescriber about their experience on the project so far.
Project Twenty21 was launched in November 2019 by the UK drug advisory committee, Drug Science. In August 2020, the patient registry handed out its first medical cannabis prescription.
A medical cannabis prescription is notoriously difficult to access on the NHS. In fact, an Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) report from 2020 revealed that less than five have been handed out by the health service. Meanwhile, those who can afford private healthcare can sometimes be left forking out thousands of pounds per month for a prescription.
Drug Science aims to build Europe’s largest body of data on the safety and efficacy of cannabis and help more people gain access to the medicine legally.
The patient’s perspective
Matthew Taylor lives with a number of debilitating conditions including degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis and osteoarthritis.
He has struggled for years with both chronic pain and mobility issues which, up until now, he has managed through traditional pain medication.
CH: What medication were you using before you were prescribed cannabis?
MT: Before medical cannabis, I was on a combination of opiates, opioids, muscle relaxants and general painkillers. They made me feel very distant and detached. I wasn’t able to communicate with people very well at all and I used to feel very nauseous most of the time.
I was able to get away from that with medical cannabis. The fentanyl I was previously on was nowhere near as effective as a painkiller as medical cannabis has been.
CH: How did you find out about Project Twenty21?
MT: I found out about it through another medical cannabis advocate, who I was introduced to through my local MP.
CH: How have you benefited from medical cannabis?
MT: Medical cannabis has certainly changed my life for the better. I’ve been able to come off medications that severely impacted how I was able to participate in daily activities. Even things as simple as communicating with my kids and my wife.
We play board games, I help them with their homework a lot more; my head is so much cleaner and pain is reduced incredibly. I would say 50 percent of my pain has gone from my first two inhales of medical cannabis.
I wouldn’t be able to sit in this room on this particular chair without medical cannabis. There’s only one chair that I could sit in for more than 10 minutes and it cost £400.
The difference in my life is remarkable. I feel like me again, as if I’ve come back from a long sleep. I wasn’t me for a good 10 years, to the point where I was using SSRI medications for depression, which I am currently coming off at the moment.
CH: What do you think needs to change for patients?
MT: Medical cannabis needs to become available for more patients, as it can help with a range of medical conditions, as I’m sure will become apparent from the results of Project 2021 when they come out.
I think many people just simply don’t understand medical cannabis as a medicine. They are afraid of stories that they’ve heard over the years. Misinformation claiming that it can make people psychotic, it can make people become violent or dangerous. And that is simply not the case.
There’s a doctor there alongside you during the project to make sure that you can take the medicine appropriately and it is helping your condition.They’re extremely helpful for that.
I hope that many other patients do go ahead and sign up to come on board the project because it will help with regards to fully accepting medical cannabis in the UK.
Find out more about joining Project Twenty21 here
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