The second in a four-part series of expert webinars, exploring the role of medical cannabis in women’s health.
Despite being legally prescribed medicinal cannabis, many mothers and children experience shame and stigma when using it in their day to day life, mostly due to misinformation and misunderstanding.
In this episode we were joined by a panel of clinical experts, patients and patient advocates, to explore the experience of mothers who rely on medical cannabis for their own or their child’s condition.
Meet the panelists
Hannah Deacon is an award-winning campaigner on access to medical cannabis. She ran a
campaign in 2017/18 with the lobby group End Our Pain to fight for access to medical cannabis on the NHS for her son Alfie. The campaign was successful and resulted in her son’s doctors
receiving the first permanent schedule one license to prescribe medical cannabis on the NHS for him in June 2018. This campaign led to the law change in November 2018. Alfie received the first legal NHS prescription for medical cannabis and still benefits from this nearly three years later.
Hannah now continues to campaign for fair access to medical cannabis treatments on the NHS and is also the Executive Director of The Medical Cannabis Clinicians society and Director of Maple Tree Consultancy. Through this work she hopes to help create a patient-focused sector which will benefit patients like her son Alfie. She is also the co-founder and vice chair of the organisation of Medcan Support, helping to support parents and carers of children who require cannabis medicines to manage their conditions.
Gillian was diagnosed with depression and anxiety in her teen years, and then later in life with PTSD and fibromyalgia. Gillian used various different medications to combat her symptoms.
Over the years, she has tried numerous antidepressants and gabapentinoids in order to try and subdue high pain levels and various other symptoms that she has been suffering from. Since being prescribed medical cannabis in April 2020, Gillian’s life has changed and she is able to spend her time with her six children, five of whom have ASD, therefore needing a lot of support. Subsequently, the pressure has been taken off of Gillian’s husband, who previously was in charge of the family’s daily life.
Gillian is an avid patient advocate and a member of PLEA (Patient-Led Engagement for Access) Patient Working Group. She wants cannabis medicines to be available through the NHS for anyone who requires it and wants to see an end to the stigma surrounding parents who take cannabis medication.
Dr Sally Ghazaleh
Dr Ghazaleh is a Pain Management Consultant at the Whittington Hospital, and the National Hospital of Neurology and Neurosurgery, London. She also prescribes cannabis-based medicines and is the Women’s Pain Expert at Integro Medical Clinics.
Sally specialises in managing patients with lower back pain, neck pain, neuropathic pain, abdominal pain, cancer pain, complex regional pain syndrome, post-stroke pain and fibromyalgia. She has a particular interest in bladder and abdominal pain in women, and women’s health in general. She is fluent in Arabic, English and Hungarian.
Sarah Higgins CNS
Sarah is a Clinical Nurse Specialist, with over 10 years’ experience working in the NHS. She developed an interest in medical cannabis and its application in women’s health following the implementation of routine screening for recreational drug use in sexual and reproductive health services. On exploring this further she identified a trend in which women were often
self-medicating with cannabis for hormone related difficulties.
Sarah is also the Women’s Health Lead at non-profit organisation CPASS Nurses Arm. The organisation’s nurse, midwife, and educator-led principal focus is on improving health, clinical outcomes and patient experience, through building nursing and midwifery leadership capacity to make significant improvements to the cannabinoid patient care environment.
Watch episode one in the series Women in Pain here
Canadian study shows more women using cannabis for menopause symptoms
Researchers analysed responses from 1,500 women living across Alberta
A new study shows a large percentage of women have tried cannabis to manage their menopause symptoms.
The menopause study aimed to examine the rates and patterns of cannabis use and its perceived effectiveness in managing symptoms.
Researchers analysed responses from 1,500 women living across Alberta of which, 18 percent were in premenopausal, 33 percent were in peri-menopause and 35 percent were in post-menopause. There was also a small percentage that had either undergone a hysterectomy and or bilateral oophorectomy.
The NHS estimates that most people who experience menopause is between 45 and 55 years of age. This occurs when a person’s oestrogen levels decline. The average age for this to happen is 51. Around 1 in every 100 women enter into menopause early before 40 years old. This is referred to as premature menopause.
Common symptoms include hot flushes, night sweats, low mood, anxiety, vaginal dryness, difficulty sleeping and reduced sex drive. The average length of time that women can experience menopause is up to four years.
Menopause study results
A study from the University of Alberta in Edmonton Canada shows that one in every three women near the menopause transition uses cannabis for symptom management.
Of the women studied, roughly 33 percent reported using cannabis within the past 30 days. Out of the 499 current cannabis users, 75 percent stated they used it for medical purposes. This included the most common reason, sleep issues at 65 percent, anxiety at 45 percent and joint pain or aches at 33 percent. A further 29 percent reported they use cannabis for irritability and 25 percent for depression. Three-quarters of the current users reported that they found cannabis helpful with their symptoms.
The most common way to take cannabis was edibles with 52 percent then oils with 47 percent. Just under half of those surveyed said they got their information from internet searches while 34 percent got their information from friends.
Researchers noted that women using cannabis were more likely than non-users to report sleep issues, mood issues including depression, mood swings, irritability and anxiety along with difficulty concentrating or painful intercourse.
Katherine Babyn from the University of Alberta and the first author of the study abstract said: “Our study confirmed that a large percentage of midlife women are using cannabis for symptoms that overlap with menopause, especially those women who reported more symptoms. In addition, many of these women are claiming to get relief for their symptoms through the use of cannabis.”
Dr Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director said: “While we continue to learn that more women are using cannabis to help manage their menopause symptoms, further research is required to assess the safety and efficacy of cannabis for menopause symptoms management.”
The results will be presented as part of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) annual meeting in Washington DC next week. The study was funded by an operating grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).
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Medical cannabis and its role in female pelvic pain
Female pelvic pain affects thousands of women but still gets misdiagnosed and is often overlooked, say experts.
Female pelvic pain affects thousands of women but still gets misdiagnosed and is very often overlooked, say experts at Integro Medical Clinics.
Dr Sally Ghazaleh, an NHS pain consultant and women’s health expert at Integro Clinics, sees countless women, who have been misdiagnosed, not taken seriously and in some cases even ridiculed by their GP’s and doctors, who have not taken their claims of chronic and sometimes excruciating pelvic pain seriously.
“In my practice, I have seen women who have suffered from chronic pelvic pain continuously over the years. They have tried multiple medications and undergone different specialist treatments to reduce the pain all to no avail.
“In fact, not only were some of the traditional approaches ineffective but the drugs such as opioids and anti- neuropathic medicines had very unpleasant side effects.”
The silent epidemic of pelvic pain
What is pelvic pain? And given the thousands of women who experience it, why is it such a silent epidemic?
Female pelvic pain is a coverall term that can range from chronic low level up to agonising pain felt by women that arises from the pelvic area.
It can be responsible not only for chronic suffering but also for notable disability. If resulting from nerve pain it may appear idiopathic or it can relate to a specific condition such as vulvodynia, painful bladder syndrome, myofascial pain resulting from muscle spasms in the pelvic floor – which can refer to pain in the stomach, back and trigger points – or endometriosis.
“It is a fact that women experience more intense and long-lasting pain complaints than men, even for conditions occurring with similar frequency in the two sexes,” says Dr Ghazaleh.
“Lack of knowledge by GP’s and perhaps being met with skepticism, feeling rejected, ignored, lack of comprehension and stigma towards women’s health contributes to women’s pain.
“Symptoms are frequently not diagnosed or go untreated for a long time. This results in women left suffering not only with chronic pain but also the huge psychological impact of this on them and their family.”
The role of the endocannabinoid system
Pelvic pain mechanisms are complex, interconnected and can be divided into three main categories of pain: the nociceptive, the inflammatory, and the neuropathic pain.
The current pain management strategies for pelvic pain focus mainly on medical treatments such as hormonal therapy, painkillers or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and/or surgical resection.
The growing understanding of how new drugs such as cannabis medicines can help is very exciting in relation to this field. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is figuring lately as an important factor in pain mechanisms. The is because the female uterus has a high concentration of endocannabinoid receptors.
Dr Ghazaleh explains: “As a last hope to reduce their pain some women give medical cannabis a try and many found that it could help them live a normal life after years of suffering. Patients stated that as well as reducing pain, they felt that medical cannabis considerably decreased gastrointestinal symptoms, sleep problems, feelings of depression and anxiety. Most importantly an appreciable number reported they were able to reduce some of their traditional medication.
She adds: “It goes without saying, that although I have seen positive results using medical cannabis for women’s pelvic conditions additional research is urgently required to assess the effectiveness of quality-controlled medicinal cannabis for this area.
“It’s a very exciting time to be involved in this field of medicine. We are only just starting to understand the full workings of the human endocannabinoid system and what a greater understanding of terpenes and the molecular potential of cannabis medicines can bring us.”
Integro Medical Clinics Ltd always recommends remaining under the care and treatment of your GP and specialist for your condition, while using cannabis-based medicines, and the Integro clinical team would always prefer to work in collaboration with them.
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