A third of Brits would use medical marijuana to help treat depression, a new study has suggested.
Medical cannabis clinic Mamedica says that 32% of those polled say that if they could treat their mental health condition with cannabis-based remedies over antidepressants then they would because they think it’s safer. Some 43% say that they have been living with severe anxiety for years and have not found a remedy to help, while 34% say that they think the treatment they are receiving for their mental health is not personal to their condition.
Over eight million people are experiencing an anxiety disorder at any one time across UK, according to Mental Health UK. The UK has also seen an exponential rise in the number of people taking antidepressants, with some 83.4 million items prescribed in 2021/22, according to NHS data.
However, despite many attesting to the benefits of taking cannabis-based treatments, they are still relatively rare. According to the NHS, medical cannabis treatment is not regularly prescribed and is usually only given for severe forms of epilepsy, adults suffering from vomiting due to chemotherapy, and people with muscle stiffness and spasms caused by multiple sclerosis (MS).
“It would only be considered when other treatments were not suitable or had not helped,” reads an advice page on the NHS website. You currently cannot get medical cannabis on a prescription from the GP, but instead must have a consultation with specialist hospital doctors. “The specialist will discuss with you all the other treatment options first, before considering a cannabis-based product,” the NHS adds.
“A prescription for medical cannabis would only be given when it was believed to be in your best interests, and when other treatments had not worked or were not suitable. It’s expected this would only apply to a very small number of people in England.
“If the above does not apply to you, do not ask a GP for a referral for medical cannabis.”
Despite the rarity of medical cannabis treatment on the NHS, Mamedica claims that specialist clinics across the UK have observed a drastic soar in the number of private prescriptions, reaching over 89,000 between November 2018 and July 2022., compared to just five NHS prescriptions for unlicensed products over the same period.
In addition, there have been 11,976 NHS prescriptions for licensed cannabis medicines and 140 private prescriptions for these products.
Jon Robson, CEO and founder of Mamedica, said: “Generally speaking, whilst the majority of our clients are looking for symptom relief for chronic pain conditions, we are increasingly seeing more and more patients enquire for psychiatric treatment. Medical cannabis can assist in regulating the body’s endocannabinoid system, a system in the body which predates so many systems we already have, which works with processing emotions such as fear, pain, stress, and anxiety.”
“It has been proven how CBD and low doses of THC can help alleviate the sense of dread and worry associated with anxiety for patients and deliver a general improvement in wellbeing and happiness. All products released to be prescribed in the UK have to undergo rigorous testing. Within that testing process, you are able to identify exactly what’s in that particular cannabis strain or a particular vape cartridge, in terms of THC, CBD and terpenes.”
The NHS has been clear about the unknowns of THC as an active ingredient in some cannabis-based medicines, but clarifies that products that only contain CBD “do not carry these unknown risks linked with THC”.
“But in reality, most products will contain a certain amount of THC,” it adds. The NHS lists psychosis and dependence on the medicine as the potential risks of using THC cannabis products, adding: “Generally, the more THC the product contains, the greater these risks are.”