UPA Medical Cannabis Patient Survey: A Window on the Reality of Patients' Experience.

Thousands of patients suffering chronic physical or mental health issues have been secretly consuming cannabis to alleviate symptoms for years, with 87% saying it significantly improved or removed symptoms.

Furthermore, 70% of the 1,750 patients surveyed said the prescription medication from which they switched away - in preference for cannabis - gave them significant or severe side-effects.

The reality of the plight of patients who have had to resort to secret sourcing and self administration of cannabis as a medicine comes as the UK Government legalises a limited range of licensed cannabis-based medicines for prescription via specialist clinicians on November 1, 2018.

This is a window on the reality of the torture of pain and anxiety of thousands, perhaps millions, of people who have not only endured multiple conditions, agonising physical and mental hardship, but have also been forced, whether personally or with the help of friends and family, to live the nightmare of secretly sourcing their only relief on black markets, on the street and in dark alleys for years
— Jon Liebling - Political Director - United Patients Alliance

Patients know the realities of both pain and relief, with 47% of those surveyed saying they did not tell their GPs about their cannabis use for fear of legal consequences.

In fact, 72% of those surveyed said they had no option but to source from black markets or 'on the street': so add a double-whammy of fear to the stress and pain of living with their condition. These patients are the case studies, and, in many cases, arguably the true experts, on the efficacy of cannabis as medication.

Key findings of the UPA survey:

  • Primary conditions suffered by patients:

    • 20% Pain

    • 17% Depression

    • 16% Anxiety

    • 31% said they consumed cannabis to address mental and behavioural disorders

  • 72% buy cannabis for medicinal purposes 'on the street', black market, or with the help of friends

  • Length of Condition and Cannabis Consumption

    • 43% had lived with their primary condition for a decade or more

    • 24% have been consuming cannabis for medicinal purposes for more than ten years

    • 31% between one and five years

  • Effectiveness

    • 49% had tried prescription medication, but made them feel worse or provided no improvement on their condition.

    • 77% said cannabis provided a significant improvement in their condition

    • 10% stating that it completely removed symptoms of one or more of their conditions

    • 70% said prescription medication gave them significant or severe side-effects

    • 42% said cannabis replaced analgesic pain relief

    • 29% said it replaced anti-depressant prescription drugs

  • Therapeutic Relationship with GP

    • 47% said they did not tell their GP for fear of legal consequences

    • 37% through fear of disapproval

    • Only 19% of GPs told of cannabis use were against its consumption

  • Types of Cannabis and Consumption Methods

    • 82% said they knew or understood the type and strength of cannabis most effective for their condition

    • 41% vapourised cannabis in herbal or flower form

    • Only 27% smoked it with tobacco

    • 32% consume cannabis through eating or drinking it, via capsules, oil, spray or similar means

  • What needs to change?

    • 73% say that decriminalising cannabis would make it safer to obtain

    • 65% say if cannabis was decriminalised, then they would grow their own supply to create their own medicines.

While we of course welcome the legalisation and prescription of cannabis-based medicines, there is still a long way to go to ensure everyone who needs it gets access to it and so it’s vital that patients' and families' expectations regarding access are managed, that policymakers deliver on the promises made by politicians, and that clinicians at all levels are educated and trained in guidelines on assessment and prescription.

To be utterly frank, while we are expecting and anticipating something of a stampede for prescriptions, we anticipate many people will be initially disappointed, and that unless Government gets a grip on delivery to match promise, many, many consumers of cannabis for medicinal purposes will still be sourcing their pain and mental health relief for weeks, months or even years to come, on the black market.
— Jon Liebling
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