by Richard Holt
With vast numbers of people taking addictive and hazardous prescription painkillers, more investment needs to be made into natural, cannabis-derived alternatives like CBD.
Anyone who has suffered from chronic pain will know that the effect on your life can be extremely corrosive.
Next time you see someone walking down the street looking miserable, consider this: maybe back pain kept them awake all night, and now that same pain has formed a pincer-movement with the tiredness, making it extremely difficult not to look like a grumpy sod.
Lots of people are in pain, and there are many potential remedies, both under and over the counter, inside and outside of the law.
Let us consider two: opiates and cannabis.
Opiates include drugs like tramadol and oxycodone – semi-synthesised, opium-derived drugs in the same group as heroin. They are highly addictive, can kill you if you take too much, and yet are prescribed by doctors to hundreds of millions of people around the world.
Cannabis is a plant that has been used effectively for thousands of years, causes no physical dependency, and has never been shown to cause a single fatality. The downside is that in most of the world, including the UK, using it makes you a criminal.
There is, however, an alternative that is legal – at least for now. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a compound that is found in cannabis and hemp plants. It does not contain any of the psychoactive part of cannabis – the THC – so it does not get you ‘high’.
But CBD oil has been found by many people to be effective at reducing pain and inflammation, as well as tackling insomnia.
A recent study suggested that there were 250,000 users in the UK alone. It has become particularly popular among sportsmen because of the effect it has on recovery.
Trent Scanlen founded truthnaturals.co.uk, a company selling CBD oil, after finding that it helped during his recovery from cancer.
‘I used CBD through my cancer treatment as it helped me sleep, made me less anxious and also allowed me to reduce the cocktail of drugs that I was on. I talked to one of my doctors about it and he said that lots of his patients used it and got great results but at the time it was illegal so he wasn’t allowed to prescribe it.’
Since 2016, CBD has been classed as a medicine in the UK and there have been a few cases where it has been prescribed on the NHS. Earlier this year 11-year-old Billy Caldwell, who suffers from severe epilepsy, saw an ‘incredible’ reduction in the number of seizures he was suffering.
He had originally been given CBD by doctors in the US, but when he returned home to Northern Ireland his GP continued the prescription.
There is also some limited use of CBD on the NHS to treat multiple sclerosis.
But such cases are very rare – doctors will only ever prescribe it in exceptional cases until there is significant investment into clinical trials to demonstrate its effectiveness.
Drugs expert Dr Henry Fisher, policy director from the medical think-tank Volteface, said: ‘There are millions of people in the UK currently experiencing chronic pain, for which the main pharmaceutical treatments on offer are either anti-inflammatory drugs, gabapentinoids or opioids.
‘By excluding cannabis-derived medicines from the doctor’s toolbox, access to some of the most effective options for pain relief is being prevented.
‘Side effects from chronic use of opioids and other pain medication can be severe, and not everyone responds positively to the same treatments, which is why having more options available for doctors to prescribe is hugely important.‘
Money is being put into research – Oxford University, for example, has announced a £10million programme to test all of the compounds in cannabis – but the scale is limited. The Government still describes cannabis as a ‘harmful drug’ and this stance seems to have set it against the use of anything associated with cannabis, even compounds like CBD with no psychoactive effects.
A lot of the reluctance to put the necessary investment into cannabis-derived products stems from outdated views on drugs.
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