Sunday, 1 April 2018

Let's talk cannabis - by Sue De Cesare

In this week's blog Yes to Life director, Sue De Cesare, condenses all of her learns from our recent talk on cannabis to share with us. 

Over the last year, we have heard some incredible stories of people recovering from cancer using cannabis as part of their support first-aid kit. In a lot of cases it has been used for pain management but in others for healing from the devastating effects cancer has on the body and mind.

We also know that there are 1,000’s of people with cancer and other chronic diseases taking some form of cannabis whether in the form of CBD (with and without THC) and Hemp. But the message is ‘it’s confusing’. Just by typing in cannabis and cancer, a Google search will deliver you 3,460,000 results.

So, in the UK, we are stuck – some would say between a rock and a hard place- it’s not as if you can go to your GP or Oncologist to ask their advice either.

As a charity it is important for us to bring home the facts and debunk the myths, so people feel less confused and become empowered to make decisions about their health. So, on Wednesday 21st March at the Bloomsbury Galley in London, we organised ‘Lets Talk Cannabis’. Our speakers were Dr Henry Fisher, Policy Director of Volteface (which explores alternatives to current public policy relating to drugs) and Saoirse O’Sullivan, an Associate Professor at the University of Nottingham who has spent the last 15 years researching Cannabinoids.

Dr Henry Fisher

Henry took the audience on a journey through the legal history of the use of Cannabis. Most notably, but not unsurprising, Cannabis in the UK is a Schedule 1 drug meaning it is ILLEGAL and has been lumped in the same class as cocaine and opium. It is also ONLY under UK LAW that it is illegal for medicinal use. There are a growing number of countries in Europe that have now legalised its use for medicinal purposes - 
find out more here. To muddy the waters a product called Sativex, which is a Medical Cannabis was placed in Schedule 4 which allows it to be prescribed as a medicine. But guess what, NICE deemed that it was not cost effective unless you have been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

It’s not all doom and gloom and there is some political will to push the agenda forward. Professor of Neurology MIKE BARNES had his review into Medicinal Cannabis published in 2016 by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Reform – it concluded that there was evidence for the medical use of Cannabis. PAUL FLYNN Politician, has also been moving a Bill through Parliament to move Cannabis from Schedule
1 to Schedule 2 so that Doctors can prescribe it. It was due for a second hearing in February 2018 but has now been shunted to July – we will keep you updated as to what happens and let’s hope fillibusting will not be evident this time round. 

Finally Henry gave a short introduction to the United Patients Alliance which campaigns for the use of Medicinal Cannabis to treat chronic conditions.

Saoirse O'Sullivan

Saoirse cleared up the big question on most people’s minds...

Just what is the difference between Cannabis; Hemp, THC with or without etc….

Also, Cannabis contains many Cannabinoids – Flavonoids, Cannaflavins, Terpenes and Terpenoids to name a few – more than 80 other ‘cannabinoid’ chemicals in fact.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – constitutes the largest percentage of Cannabinoids found in Cannabis. It’s the bit that makes you feel ‘high’.

So, one of those ‘Did you Know’ Cannabis was first scientifically researched by William Brooke O’Shaughnessy back in 1839 in relation to its therapeutic effects – Cannabis was widely used for pain relief and was later replaced using Aspirin.

And, Cannabis derived drugs are being used to treat people for other conditions and in other countries. see below.

In the Press – what can we believe?

We have all read the stories about the use of Cannabis – and curing cancer. It is not our place to make comment on whether these are ‘true’ or not. What we do know is there is sufficient pre-clinical evidence (all in vitro and animal research) of anti-tumoral benefits.

  • Cannabinoids kill cancer cells

  • Cannabinoids slow cancer cell growth

  • Cannabinoids reduce new vessel growth

There is also sufficient evidence to show that the use of Cannabis for symptom management does help with:
  • Nausea 
  • Appetite
  • Weight maintenance
  • Pain
  • Sleep
  • Mood
  • Depression
  • Quality of life

So as individuals we must make our minds up about what steps we take. There are some positive things to do – get involved. Join the United Patients Alliance; have a look at what Carol Coombes OBE is up to; document your own evidence if you are using Cannabis and let us know the outcomes; keep an eye on what’s happening with Paul Flynn’s Bill as we will; if you have an open relationship with your health team (GP, Oncologist, practitioner) get their view.

As the talk was oversubscribed we will be holding further events on this subject. The next one will take place in Manchester and we will aim to do another one in the UK. Please do get in touch by emailing if you are interested and we will aim to organise more across the UK.

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