Medics split over effects of Class B drug
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.”