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“I’m forced to choose between life-changing medication or paying the bills”

A father-of-five has had his life turned around thanks to medical cannabis, but now his treatment is under threat.

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Ryan Holmwood
Ryan Holmwood says medical cannabis has made him a better father to his five children.

A father-of-five suffering from chronic pain has had his life turned around thanks to a private medical cannabis prescription, but the high costs mean he may be forced to end the life-changing treatment. 

Five years ago, Ryan Holmwood suffered from a serious accident while working as a commercial industrial electrician, leaving his spine severely damaged.

Rendered disabled and unable to work, Ryan was checked into the Pain Clinic at Milton Keynes University Hospital where he was diagnosed with chronic pain, protruding discs and degenerative disc disease.

He was quickly put onto a course of 46 tablets a day, including opiates, synthetic opioids, benzodiazepines, anticonvulsants and anti-inflammatories.

Ryan calculated that for the last half-decade, he has taken around 16,744 tablets each year.

Although the medication has helped him deal with the excruciating pain, it has had “huge implications” for his physical health.

In 2017, he was diagnosed with fatty liver, a disease that can lead to more serious conditions such as cirrhosis – severe scarring of the liver seen at the terminal stages of chronic liver disease. Ryan doesn’t drink and eats a healthy diet, so he is convinced that it is his medication that is causing his liver to deteriorate.

Prior to his injury, Ryan says he weighed 75 kilos, a healthy weight for a man of 6ft. Five years after the injury, he had put on 45 kilos.

“I knew I was in trouble as this method of treatment was having very negative effects on my body,” he says.

Ryan Holmwood cannabis

Ryan Holmwood with his wife, Karen, on their wedding day

“My liver function tests have been well into the 450s for the last three years, but for my age group they should be no more than 56.”

It wasn’t just his body taking a hit. Since the injury, Ryan’s mental health and family life have been severely impacted.

Heavily sedated and in pain, Ryan has struggled for the past five years to engage with his wife and kids as a result of the medication.

“If you asked any of my children back then, ‘what do your parents do?’, they would say ‘daddy sits on the sofa watching TV all day’.

“That’s all I did and that was because I was in pain and heavily sedated on tablets and morphine.

“I didn’t play or really interact with my children or wife,” he continues. “I really struggled to keep a conversation with anyone, whether that be my wife, my children or my mother.

“I was a living like a zombie.”

Last year, it all became too much and in November, Ryan says he began to have suicidal thoughts. It was at this point that he sought alternative medication to improve both his condition and his life for himself and his family.

“I felt like I was stopping my children from having a life. They didn’t go anywhere and they didn’t do anything [because] my wife doesn’t like leaving me at home for long periods of time. She’s my carer which means she has responsibility if something were to happen to me,” he added.

Ryan came across medical cannabis while researching online. Although he was suspicious at first, Ryan says he was reassured after reaching out to several medical users to hear about their experiences with the drug.

After being accepted onto Drug Science’s Project Twenty21 – a programme aiming to widen access to medical cannabis – Ryan managed to source a prescription through The Medical Cannabis Clinics, a private clinic with locations across the UK.

“I was delighted to be accepted but still sceptical,” Ryan recalls. “I went through the process of an initial consultation and was prescribed medical cannabis for the first time. I really had no idea if vaping cannabis would help but I was willing to try anything.”

On 6 January 2021, Ryan’s first prescription arrived at his house. After the first inhale, Ryan experienced “instant” relief.

“I was immediately relaxed,” he says.

“There was no waiting for tablets to kick in or waiting for morphine to work. I was truly shocked at how well it worked for my pain.

“My pain hasn’t gone away; it’s not a miracle fix, but it manages my pain as effectively as all of the drugs I was on before and cognitively, I’m a different person.

“I can do a bit more than I used to and I’m not suffering as much because of the cannabis.

“I’m able to walk further than I used to, I can drive more than I could before and my back doesn’t go into horrific spasms like it used to.”

Ryan says he hasn’t experienced a back spasm for months since starting on his cannabis prescription, whereas before, he would be hit with excruciating muscle contractions on a daily basis.

As the cannabis was working so well for his pain, Ryan started to come off some of the prescription medications that were having such a disastrous impact on his life and health. By the end of February, he was taking just eight tablets per day and had completely stopped using morphine and pain relief patches.

As he did, he noticed that he was starting to feel himself again – he says it was like “waking up from a bad dream”.

Ryan Holmwood medical cannabis

Ryan at home with his son

“I felt amazing, I wanted to play with my children and I could actually hold a conversation with my wife and do a lot more to help in the house. She’s much happier as a person.

“I have a four-year-old son and I missed those first few years after he was born. I was at home watching [him] but I wasn’t fully engaged with him until this year.

“But now, I’m his best friend in the whole wide universe and that’s what I care about more than anything.

“My children are happy now and I laugh. Not because I’m high but because I find things funny. Before, if the whole family started laughing, for me it was almost like not being part of it.

By the end of March, Ryan had reduced his medication plan to just six tablets per day and his life at home was better than ever.

“Life prior to cannabis was miserable. I was in pain, I was putting on weight and I almost decided to take my own life.

“Life after cannabis is the complete opposite of that and I’m bemused at why it isn’t available for more people.”

Ryan says he has lived an “amazing life” over the past three months, but now, due to the cost of his prescription, he is at risk  of having to revert back to the 46 tablets a day that he once relied on.

Even with Project Twenty21 subsidising his prescription, Ryan has had to fork out £1,100 since December to pay for his daily doses of medical cannabis flower. As a disabled person with a wife and five kids, continuing with the prescription is not sustainable, he says.

To help his cause, Ryan has sent a moving email to NICE, NHS England, MHRA, Matt Hancock, Sir Iain Duncan Smith, George Freeman, Boris Johnson and his local, MP Ben Everitt, pleading with the politicians and organisations to help him access medical cannabis through the NHS.

“My family means everything to me and I want to be part of it, too,” he writes.

“I can’t make it clear enough how important this email is.

“I’m writing to you to ask for help to assist me in getting medical cannabis through the NHS, I have no idea how, so I really need your help.”

Ryan has heard back from his MP’s office who said they were unable to help him. However, he did receive a more promising response from the MHRA who provided him with a comprehensive email including information and tools to progress with his request for an NHS prescription.

As he battles for a free prescription, Ryan is sharing his story with fellow patients who are unable to access cannabis legally or at an affordable price.

He is building a strong following on Reddit, a popular platform amongst medical cannabis patients, where he shares updates about his correspondence with government bodies.

“I think I have surprised some of the community as to just how far I’ve gotten with my correspondence with the likes of MHRA.

“And it’s not all about me; I’m doing this for all the other people who have reached out to me in similar circumstances, and I’d like to represent all of them in trying to get the help we are all looking for.

“Choosing between life-changing medication or paying the bills is extremely difficult.”

As his funds begin to run out, Ryan is unsure how he will be able to continue paying for his cannabis prescription.

“In the second week of May, I will run out of medicine; I will have no flower in the house,” Ryan says.

“I have my original prescription here in preparation and that’s pretty hard to swallow.

“I think if I have to go back to pharmaceutical treatment it will be very hard mentally to know that I’ll be reverting back to a useless husband and terrible father to my five amazing children.

“We will all lose in this scenario and if I have to revert back to my pharmaceutical medication, I wouldn’t want to live that way again.”

Ryan has set up a JustGiving page to help contribute towards payments for his next prescription.

Mental health

Clinical trial will assess if CBD can be used to treat PTSD

A new clinical trial could be a breakthrough moment for the treatment of PTSD

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PTSD is particularly common among those who have served in the armed forces

US biotech firm Ananda Scientific has launched clinical trials of a cannabis-based treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The company has teamed up with New York University Grossman School of Medicine to carry out the eight-week study.

The Phase II double-blind, randomised trial will involve 120 patients in a large scale placebo-controlled experiment which could be a breakthrough moment for the drug.

If successful, the trial will be an important step on the journey to winning regulatory approval Ananda’s Nantheia treatment, a drug incorporating CBD into a liquid application.

PTSD is a common mental health disorder which occurs in people following a traumatic experience and is a particular problem among people who have served in the armed forces.

A 2014 study found as many as 12.9 percent of US soldiers who served in Iraq displayed some symptoms of PTSD.

Recent months have seen warnings health workers on the front line during the Covid-19 crisis could also be experiencing PTSD.

An increasing number of health workers have displayed PTSD symptoms during the pandemic.

A study in the British Medical Journal compiled earlier this year found 39.5 percent of staff on critical care wards ‘met the threshold for probable clinical significance’ when surveyed for PTSD symptoms.

The study will also evaluate its impact on patients with neurocognitive impairments resulting from a traumatic brain injury.

Sohail R. Zaidi, Ananda’s president, said: “This is an important milestone for Ananda’s clinical development program, and we look forward to continuing to work with the NYU Grossman School of Medicine.

“We are impressed by the scientific rigour and professionalism of the NYU team in getting a cutting-edge program in place to test the efficacy of our very promising drug.

“The initiation of patient enrolment in this study reinforces our commitment to our goal of improving health and wellness empowered by cannabinoid science.

“This is also an important step in our efforts to provide patients with PTSD with potentially improved therapeutic options.”

This trial is being led by Esther Blessing, assistant professor of psychiatry and Charles R. Marmar, chair of psychiatry.

Dr Marmar leads NYU’s PTSD research programme and is a leading expert in clinical trials for innovative treatments for PTSD and related conditions.

He said: “We are excited to get this important trial underway. Our collaboration with Ananda Scientific allows us to progress in the development of evidence-based CBD products for this debilitating condition.”

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Why are people using CBD?

New survey data reveals why people in the US are consuming CBD – here are some of the key findings.

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CBD oil
New survey data reveals how and why people in the US are consuming CBD

New survey data reveals how and why people in the US are consuming CBD – here are some of the key findings.

Data intelligence firm New Frontier has released two new reports providing in-depth analysis on CBD consumer groups in the US and the factors shaping their behaviours. 

For the survey, respondents were grouped into four cohorts based on their primary reason to consume CBD including; medical, pain management, unwinding and general wellness.

Just over half of those described as ‘unwinding’ consumers are under the age of 35, while most who use it to manage pain are aged 55 or older, according to the findings.

Medical and general wellness consumers are roughly evenly distributed across age groups.

A whopping 92 percent of medical users reported having a ‘positive impression’ of CBD and 71 percent have recommended it to someone they know.

Unsurprisingly, medical users were more likely to consume CBD on a daily basis and spent more on the supplement, with one in four claiming to be spending more than $100 per month on CBD products. 

The majority of those surveyed said they used CBD for pain management and were “highly satisfied” with CBD and most likely to believe that it has “valid medical uses”.

But in general this group was “uninformed” about the cannabis market, says the report, and only one in five weren’t  interested in learning more.

Those who consume CBD to unwind identified anxiety reduction, stress relief, sleep, relaxation and pain management as some of the common reasons for use.

This group was younger than the average and nearly three-quarters said they had discussed CBD with friends, while more than 90 percent have friends or family who also use it.

By contrast, general wellness consumers were among the least likely to have had a conversation about CBD (11 percent) and nearly 1 in 5 (17 percent) did not know any friends or family who consume it.

Oils and tinctures were the most popular consumption method, followed by topicals, edibles and drinks and vaping, with CBD in capsule and pill form the least common.

Concluding key takeaways from the survey, the authors write: “The deepening fragmentation of the CBD consumer market will continue as consumers become more familiar with the products, and more targeted in the ways by which they integrate CBD into their lives. 

“While medical consumers are most likely to be regimented in their use, more likely to be brand-loyal, and most focused on dosing, other consumers groups are far less entrenched in their product preferences or consumption habits.”

While 30 percent of surveyed consumers expected their CBD usage to increase in the next six months, just under half (49 percent) said they did not have a preferred brand.

New Frontier Data founder and executive chair, Giadha A DeCarcer, noted: “As the market is flooded with more product choices, CBD brands and retailers would be well-served to delineate and target their consumers as they would in any other mainstream product category.”

See the full report at New Frontier Data 

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Mental health

Friends and CBD founders donate profits to mental health charity

10 percent of the brand’s profits will go to the Mental Health Foundation this month

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Catherine Meardon (left) and Laura Walton co-founded Moi+Me

Two friends who co-founded a CBD brand after experiencing anxiety, are donating a percentage of the company’s profits to a mental health charity this month.

Best friends and CBD co-founders, Laura Walton and Catherine Meardon know the importance of looking after your mental health.

Both of them have experienced anxiety either personally, or through a loved one. 

This June, the pair who co-founded CBD brand Moi+Me, are donating 10 percent of their profits to the Mental Health Foundation to help raise awareness. 

The charity provides support for those experiencing mental health issues, as well as campaigning to raise awareness and reduce stigma.

The friends and former colleagues founded Moi+Me after Laura’s struggles with anxiety after losing her mum.

She says discovering CBD, along with other tools and being able to be open about her experience helped her find her “way out”.

As a friend, Catherine has found it difficult to know what to say and together they wanted to build a brand that could provide tools and support, as well as taking the confusion out of CBD.

“Both of us have been touched personally by anxiety, either through our own suffering or that of those we love,” said Laura.

“I used CBD along with other tools during her mental health journey and found them to be a great support, but I didn’t want to only create a brand or product, we want to help support as much as we can by encouraging people to take extra care of themselves and have self-love.” 

She added: “It is our mission to raise further awareness of mental health, we are fully aware it can still be hard to be open about mental health in fear of being judged so by supporting this charity who in turn helps others also suffering feels a perfect fit for our brand.”

The concept for Moi + Me came from the idea that our busy lifestyles leave us feeling pulled in different directions with little time for reflection and self-care.

The range includes CBD balm, temple roller, peppermint oil mist and massage candle to encourage customers to take time for themselves.

Catherine added: “We both understand the importance of getting your life balance right. If you don’t allow time in your life for reflection and relaxation, things can very quickly feel on top of you. 

“Our busy lifestyles can leave us feeling like you have one soul and two minds. One ‘Moi’ side of us is thriving externally while the other ‘Me’ side feels tired, worn out and has too much on.  

“We’ve designed our high-quality, pure CBD product range to help bring moments of calm into your daily routine through a combination of stimulating flavours and scents.”

 

Visit www.moiandme.com

Access mental health information and support via the Mental Health Foundation 

 

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