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1.4m people in the UK use illegal cannabis as a treatment

A survey has recently revealed that more than 1million Britons have been using cannabis to treat different illnesses from post-traumatic stress disorder to cancer. 2.8% of the UK adult population are self-medicating with illegal cannabis to treat symptoms of a variety of conditions. Some of the numbers of people suffering from these conditions and using street cannabis to manage these symptoms have been found to be as follows:

  • Arthritis: 230,000
  • Cancer: 100,000
  • Multiple Sclerosis: 50,000
  • Depression: 650,000
  • Anxiety: 590,000
  • Chronic Pain: 327,000
  • Insomnia: 180,000
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: 180,000

It was also brought to light that two-fifths of people with Huntington’s disease, a third of people with Parkinson’s disease and a fifth of people with MS revealed that they also use street cannabis to relieve and manage their symptoms. 

In November 2018, medical cannabis was legalised in the UK, however, due to strict conditions it has meant that only a small number of patients have been able to access the drug on the NHS. Although if a patient is able to afford a private consultation and prescription there is no restriction, however, it has an extremely high cost. Due to the strict conditions to access medical cannabis on the NHS and the extremely high costs privately, huge numbers of people are turning to illegal cannabis instead. The effects of patients having to use illegal street cannabis range from financial difficulties, contact with criminal activity, the legal implications if they get caught, and also patients will usually have to smoke the drug instead of using an oil, spray or capsule, which may be better forms of administering the drug. In a recent report by an organisation that represents medical cannabis and CBD manufacturers, the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC), touched on the subject of the use of illegal cannabis, saying ‘The monetary, ethical and social cost to individuals using cannabis to relieve their symptoms is high, and unnecessarily exposes them to significant personal risk.’ 

The use of illegal cannabis for medical reasons has been found across all different age groups, social classes, and genders, with nearly half of them spending over £100 a month on cannabis. Patients as a group have been spending over £2.6billion per year on the illegal cannabis market. 

In response to these findings, the Department of Health said: ‘We sympathise with those dealing with challenging conditions and have changed the law to allow patients access to cannabis-based products for medicinal use where clinically appropriate however, there is a clear need for more evidence to support clinical prescribing.’ 

From this information, it is clear that the need for easier access to medicinal cannabis is high. With such a staggering number, 1.4million, of people using illegal cannabis to treat an illness, the demand and need is there for laws and regulations to be changed to help those suffering from painful and uncomfortable symptoms.