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.
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:
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
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.