Research Reveals up to 1.4 Million UK Citizens are Treating a Medical Condition with Black Market Cannabis

When you consider the difficulty of getting prescribed medical cannabis through the NHS, is it any surprise that UK consumers are turning to the black market?

We note that the subject contained in this article represents illegal activity in certain jurisdictions. Whilst we do not condone any acts which are contrary to any such laws, we understand that readers in those jurisdictions which have decriminalised cannabis may find this article of interest.

As of November 2018, cannabidiol products such as Epidiolex became available for prescription on the National Health Service (NHS). The most common use for this product is treating patients with severe cases of epilepsy, such as Billy Caldwell – a young boy who played an important role in the legalisation of medicinal cannabis in the UK.

Aside from treating epilepsy, cannabis is known to be an effective treatment for several other diseases like, depression and anxiety-related issues, joint pains, Alzheimer's disease and muscle injuries.

However, even with a growing body of scientific evidence in place, it still remains highly challenging to secure a prescription for medicinal cannabis in the UK.

A nation-wide survey was recently carried out by YouGov for the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC) and the Cannabis Advocacy and Support Services (CPASS). 

Participants of the survey were asked about their gender, age, social grade, government region, working status, marital status, and number of children. They were also asked if they suffered from a defined list of medical diagnoses.

With over 10,000 participants, this survey revealed that approximately 2.8%—or 1.4 million of the UK's adult population—purchase "street" cannabis to treat ongoing medical issues.

Previous reports conducted by the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis estimated that up to 1.1 million UK consumers are already using cannabis for medicinal purposes, excluding those who consume it for recreationally.

​"​These figures demonstrate the vast number of patients in the UK with chronic and debilitating diagnosed conditions who feel they have no choice but to expose themselves to all the risks of accessing a medicine that works from the criminal market" Said Ann Keen, Chair of CPASS and Fellow of Queen's Nursing Institute

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"Controlled, safe but innovative solutions must be explored as soon as possible"

The CMC found that more than half said they made daily purchases of cannabis for their medical conditions, while under a quarter of the participants surveyed do so on a weekly basis.

Meanwhile, 9% of adults claim to spend nothing on cannabis, as they grow their own supply instead.

The findings of the study concluded that 44% of adults spend up to £99 (187AUD) on medicinal cannabis in only a month, while just over a fifth spend anywhere between £100- 199 (189-376 AUD).

This type of regular medical expense is something that usually would be covered with help from the NHS.

According to Dr Daniel Couch, the Medical Lead at the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis, this is the first time that we have enough reliable and representative data regarding the number of people in the UK using cannabis as a medicine.

"Over a million people are using cannabis illegally to relieve their symptoms."

"The findings are astounding and present a national challenge. We urgently require robust clinical evidence to evaluate the safety and efficacy of cannabinoid medicines," Couch said.

The CMC has confirmed that, within the next few days they will be proposing new ideas for how the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence should evaluate cannabis-based medicinal products in the next 5-10 years, as well as announcing the launch of a major new clinical research conference in London.

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Niki Mohazeb
Niki Mohazeb

Niki is a Sydney based writer, with a passion for promoting the health benefits of medicinal cannabis. Niki also enjoys researching and writing about the future of cannabis along with the many other benefits that the plant provides, such as the diverse utilities of hemp.

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