Jonathan started consuming cannabis six years ago when he was having trouble sleeping, but he had no idea why it was helping him until he was diagnosed with PTSD.
“It’s been life-changing for me, and not just having the medication, but being able to speak about it and open up about my life,” says 28-year-old Jonathan, who is prescribed cannabis to manage his symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“There are some things I would never have been able to speak about if it hadn’t been for cannabis.”
Jonathan was 22 when he decided to try cannabis to help him sleep.
“I was having problems sleeping and then had very little energy and would struggle to focus during the day – but otherwise I wasn’t aware of anything being wrong with my health,” he says.
“I’d previously tried sleeping pills, but with cannabis I saw much more improvement. It helped my sleep, gave me motivation and it made me feel normal.”
He adds: “It felt like medicine to me but I didn’t understand why it was making me feel better, and I didn’t delve too much into it.”
A few years later, while living in Israel – where the medicinal benefits of cannabis seemed more widely accepted at the time – Jonathan visited a doctor and confided in him about his consumption.
He was diagnosed with PTSD, in a major breakthrough.
“I’d never put labels on it, but when he said that things started to make sense,” he says now.
“That conversation with the doctor was extremely emotional and relieving for me. I felt like a huge weight had been lifted, as though something hadn’t quite made sense and now it did.”
Returning to the UK, Jonathan began looking into obtaining a prescription for medical cannabis. As well as having a consistent supply of medication, it was important to him to have someone to talk to about his symptoms.
Despite his GP advising him against cannabis use – and his own concerns that PTSD wouldn’t be a prescribing condition – he completed a self-referral to the Medical Cannabis Clinics and was accepted as a patient last year.
“It’s hard to describe what it means to have a prescription. I can now enjoy life and not feel like I have to suppress a part of myself like I did before,” says Jonathan.
“But the main thing is that I can talk about the fact that this is making me feel better – and it is okay.
“I needed to speak to a doctor who was understanding about that.”
He continues: “Until now people have been researching online and using their own initiative, but now that we have the opportunities out there for people to be able to talk to their doctor and that is life changing.”
Being more vocal about his medical cannabis consumption, led Jonathan to join the PLEA (Patient-Led Engagement for Access) Patient Working Group earlier this year.
The non-profit organisation was founded in 2020, to stand up for patients and challenge the inequalities in accessing cannabis in the UK.
One of its core aims is to empower patients to share their experiences with medicinal cannabis and to ensure their voices are at the centre as the sector develops.
“After I got the prescription I wanted to express how I felt and to be more involved in the space,” says Jonathan.
“You need people who are willing to take the first steps and I love how PLEA is so patient-based.
“I feel really comfortable getting to know other members, it sounds a bit old school but cannabis really can bring people together.”
While there have been some recent issues with supply and demand of cannabis-based medicines in the UK, Jonathan has been happy with the care he has received from the clinics, and believes the country is well-placed to cultivate a world-leading cannabis industry in the years to come.
“I think there is space for a very different industry to anything that exists in the UK at the moment, and we have the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of other countries, he says.
“Prices are coming down and I think we’re in the perfect position for a really successful sector.”
But outside of the private sector, he would like to see more awareness and understanding of how cannabis can be beneficial for mental health conditions, as well as physical.
“I don’t think labels are that important – most PTSD patients wouldn’t go to the doctor and say ‘I think I have PTSD’ – but it would be nice to see more focus on mental health. In the private clinics I think they treat mental health issues the same as physical conditions,” he says.
“PTSD is a hard thing to talk about, especially if you’re using cannabis. I didn’t go to the doctor for a very long time as I felt I had nothing to say,” Jonathan adds.
“I got such a boost from the medical cannabis prescription and from talking to doctors about it. I would have really struggled without it.”
In our Patient Voices series, we’re sharing the stories of members of PLEA’s Patient Working Group.
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