As medicinal cannabis is set to be legalised, here are the conditions it could help

27th Jul 18 | Lifestyle

Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced a huge change in the law.

Doctors will soon be able to legally prescribe medicinal cannabis to patients in the UK, after home secretary Sajid Javid said that recent cases involving sick children made it clear the position on cannabis-related medicinal products “was not satisfactory”.

It follows recommendations from various official bodies. An initial review by Dame Sally Davies, chief medical adviser, concluded that there is evidence medicinal cannabis has therapeutic benefits. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), which carried out the second part of the review, last week said doctors should be able to prescribe medicinal cannabis provided products meet safety standards.

Medical marijuana contains cannabinoids, and the two main ones used in medicine are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). CBD has no psychoactic properties but can have a medicinal effect on the brain, while THC is responsible for the high and has pain-relieving properties.

With doctors being able to prescribe the substance in the autumn, here are some of the conditions where the properties in marijuana could help patients.

Epilepsy

Billy Caldwell and his mother Charlotte
Billy Caldwell and his mother Charlotte (Brian Lawless/PA)

In the news, medicinal cannabis is most frequently linked to controlling epileptic seizures. Billy Caldwell, 13, and Alfie Dingley, 6, have both recently been issued licenses to use cannabis oil to control their severe epilepsy after very public battles, which very well could have put pressure on the government to make this change in the law.

Research like a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that taking CBD can see a reduction in the frequency of seizures.

Billy’s mother Charlotte welcomed the news, saying: “Crucially, my little boy Billy can now live a normal life with his mummy because of the simple ability to now administer a couple of drops a day of a long-maligned but entirely effective natural medication.”

Multiple sclerosis

Scientists have found a relationship between CBD and the immune system, and a 2009 study published in US National Library of Medicine suggested that “cannabinoids play an important role in the regulation of the immune system”.

One major use of this could be to reduce inflammatory responses in the body, and could be used to treat disorders like multiple sclerosis (MS).

According to a January 2017 paper published by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, oral cannabinoids were found to improve short-term spasticity symptoms in patients with MS.

Not only this, but medicinal marijuana can be used to significantly reduce pain symptoms, which is extremely useful for people who suffer from conditions like MS.

Last week the official body which advises the government on drugs said that doctors should be allowed to prescribe medicinal cannabis to patients, and this news was welcomed by MS sufferers. Genevieve Edwards, director of external affairs at the MS Society, said: “It is an immense achievement and relief that this decision has been made, as evidence shows cannabis could help as many as 10,000 people living with MS. This is a momentous milestone for people who have been forced to choose between living with relentless pain and muscle spasms, and breaking the law.”

Arthritis

Due to cannabis’s anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties, it also can be used to treat rheumatoid arthritis – a painful disease where joints become inflamed, swollen and stiff.

Studies like one published in Rheumatology show that sufferers who took cannabis-based medicine saw a reduction in pain when they were moving, resting and sleeping, which could be life-changing for people with arthritis.

HIV/Aids

Medicinal cannabis
Even though medicinal cannabis can’t cure HIV/Aids, it can help alleviate symptoms (Thinkstock/PA)

HIV stands for ‘Human Immunodeficiency Virus’, which means that it attacks your immune system and weakens your body, and it’s been suggested that cannabis can help manage the symptoms.

Research in Journal of Pain and Symptom Management details how it can be used to improve appetite, muscle pain, nausea, anxiety and nerve pain. Considering that HIV is such an all-encompassing and debilitating disease,  alleviation of these symptoms could do much to help sufferers.

© Press Association 2018

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