Medics split over ef­fects of Class B drug

Birmingham Post - - NEWS -

THE med­i­cal pro­fes­sion is di­vided over the true health ben­e­fits of cannabis.

Con­sul­tant neu­rol­o­gist Michael Barnes, ad­viser to a group that cam­paigns for the le­gal­i­sa­tion of cannabis, told The Guardian: “The key in­di­ca­tions that I think are unar­guable – although there is more work that needs to be done – are for treat­ing spas­tic­ity, a big prob­lem af­ter stroke, brain in­jury or mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis.

“There is good ev­i­dence for help­ing pain in all sorts of con­texts. There is sur­pris­ingly good ev­i­dence for anx­i­ety, and nau­sea and vom­it­ing, par­tic­u­larly in the con­text of chemo­ther­apy. There is also ev­i­dence that it could be use­ful for ap­petite stim­u­la­tion, and treat­ing symp­toms of epilepsy. This year, in what’s be­lieved to be a first for the NHS, a GP in North­ern Ire­land pre­scribed cannabis oil to an 11-year-old boy with epilepsy af­ter the child’s mother took him to be treated by doc­tors in Cal­i­for­nia, where med­i­cal mar­i­juana is le­gal. The oil con­tains the com­pound CBD (but not THC, the psy­choac­tive in­gre­di­ent in the drug) and is also le­gal in the UK, re­clas­si­fied as a medicine by the Medicines And Health­care Prod­ucts Reg­u­la­tory Agency late last year.”

But Mr Barnes warned that medic­i­nal cannabis can still have side-ef­fects.

“We found that the ev­i­dence, although it is quite con­flict­ing, was that it can cause a psy­chotic episode in those who have a fam­ily his­tory of schizophrenia,” he said.

“We went through the other po­ten­tial prob­lems such as, does it cause can­cer if you smoke it? The an­swer is no­body knows, but we’re not rec­om­mend­ing you smoke it any­way. Does it cause memory prob­lems? Yes, it prob­a­bly does, in heavy recre­ational users in the short term.”

Campaign group End Our Pain es­ti­mates close to one mil­lion peo­ple in this coun­try have used cannabis as medicine.

An all-party re­port en­ti­tled “Ac­cess to medic­i­nal cannabis: meet­ing pa­tient needs”, con­cluded: “The is­sue of medic­i­nal cannabis should be treated as a mat­ter of com­pas­sion and be viewed sep­a­rately from the wider is­sue of drug pol­icy re­form.”

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