Who can prescribe medical cannabis?
Medical cannabis is an unlicensed medicine and needs to be initiated by a fully licenced consultant physician on the GMC specialist register, within their area of expertise, in the management of chronic conditions. At present, GPs are not permitted to prescribe medical cannabis.
Re:Cognition Health’s Medical Cannabis Service is led by specialist Consultant Psychiatrist Dr Dimitrios Paschos, who leads our team of experts who work collaboratively to diagnose, treat and manage conditions affecting the brain and mind.
Dr Paschos has over 20 years experience in treating patients and is passionate about education and improving mental health and the quality of life for individuals struggling with various aspects of their mental and cognitive health.
When will benefits be evident?
It may take 3 to 4 weeks before patients start to feel the full benefits of medical grade cannabis and up to 12 weeks to reach an established dose.
The prescribing doctor will advise patients on dosage and frequency and may advise to increase the dose slowly over the first two weeks of use. If any concerning side effects are experienced from the medicine, the doctor will be available to discuss these and alter the dose, accordingly.
What Side effects may I experience?
All medicines can have side effects. The doctor will discuss these potential side effects with patients and also provide written information. Side effects are most commonly experienced at the start of treatment. However, most side effects are mild and wear off within a few hours.
Medical cannabis is generally well tolerated as low doses are usually sufficient and side effects are therefore relatively rare. Side effects occur mainly with higher doses or with the simultaneous use of a substance that enhances the side effects, for example alcohol.
CBD is generally very safe, but can sometimes cause stomach upset, diarrhoea, dizziness or tiredness.
THC is associated with more side effects, and these can include dizziness, disorientation, drowsiness and dry mouth.
Possible side effects:
- Decreased appetite/ increased appetite
- Dry mouth
- Abdominal pain
- A behavioural or mood change
- Heightened feelings of fear and depression, suicidal ideation especially in men
- Slower reaction times, especially during the first hours after use.
- Can affect ability to concentrate and can cause cloudiness of thoughts.
- Feeling high, related to THC
Can I drive on medical cannabis?
This medicine may make patients feel sleepy so people should not drive while taking this medicine until they know how it affects them. Patients should not drive or use tools or machinery if they feel sleepy, dizzy, unable to concentrate or make decisions, or if experiencing blurred or double vision. Patients should refrain from drinking alcohol
For further information please visit www.gov.uk/drug-driving-law
No one should drive whilst impaired. THC can cause impairment for driving whilst the intoxicating effect is still present, so driving (or other hazards such as operating machinery) whilst under the influence should be avoided.
THC can be detected in the blood for days after the acute effect has worn off because THC is stored in fat cells and will come out of those cells over several days after the dose. It is a good idea for patients to carry a copy of the prescription at all times.
What medical cannabis products are available?
There is a range of medical grade cannabis products available in the UK, all of which must be selected under the guidance of the specialist physician. Some people may need to trial various products, or use a combination of products, to find their most effective treatment.
Many medical cannabis products are a full-spectrum plant extracts, therefore they contain cannabinoids THC and CBD, plus other minor cannabinoids, terpenes and other plant compounds.
The CBD-based products available from health food stores and other outlets contain very small amounts of CBD. These are not currently regulated and therefore not recommended for medical purposes.
Over-the-counter CBD is usually derived from hemp. Hemp is a cannabis strain that has been grown for centuries used for paper and building materials, for example. Hemp contains high levels of CBD and very little other cannabinoids and few of the other components, like terpenes and flavonoids. It is thought by many that these other components are essential for the full medical benefit of the plant (the entourage effect).