Medical Cannabis at the RSM

Really interesting evening at the Royal Society of Medicine last night looking at medical cannabis.  CBD products are commercially available everywhere now, it’s become big business and many claims are made.  Prescribing cannabis has been legal in the UK for a year. The effect is to create a sense of optimism about what the non-intoxicating  elements of cannabis can do for our health.

So… I went keen to hear the evidence of how CBD might help patients with inflammatory conditions, chronic pain and more.

Speakers included… consultant gastroenterologist Dr Peter Irving talking about Inflammatory Bowel Disease, psychopharmacology researcher Dr Amir Englund discussing psychiatric disorders, Professor of neurology Praveen Anand looking at pain, and consultant urologist Dr Zeid Mohamedali describing his experience and research prescribing medical cannabis in Canada.

My impressions?

We need a lot more high quality research.  The word ‘signalling’ was used a lot in relation to research – the evidence isn’t there yet but there are signs of promise.

Cannabis is a very complex herb – you are dealing with not one but two main active substances and these need to be carefully balanced.

The importance of ‘personalised medicine’ was discussed – each case needs to be assessed individually – people respond to cannabis differently.

Wondering if medical cannabis can help you? - Key take aways from the event

  • Research for most conditions is somewhat underwhelming – but there may be many reasons for this –  differences in cannabis strains, how it’s grown and how it’s taken all significantly influence it’s effect

  • Case histories from doctors specialising in its use were more convincing than the research

  • Like most herbs cannabis works best when the whole plant is used – using CBD on it’s own may not give the best therapeutic effect.  THC can enhance the effect of CBD.

  • Dosage needs to be titrated carefully

  • It’s important to start slowly and build up tolerance gradually

  • You need a specialist to help you

  • NICE guidelines state that prescribing can only be done by a specialist for your condition, not by your GP

  • If you don’t have a specialist may be able to help