In the long history of our organisation's work in the field of education in the treatment of people with drug and alcohol problems, questions about medical cannabis sometimes cropped up peripherally e.g. the use of Sativex would be discussed in our (now defunct) discussion forums. But there is currently an immense groundswell of interest from medical professionals, patients and the general public in the use of medical cannabis for many chronic conditions - including pain and anxiety - issues that are also prevalent in people who use alcohol and drugs problematically.

The evidence for medical cannabis was summarised in a report to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform in 2016 entitled Cannabis: the evidence for medical use by Prof Mike Barnes[i]. This report has been a factor in progressing the medical cannabis debate in the UK. Widespread disappointment was aired in the wake of the NICE and NHS England reviews[ii] and recommendations published in August this year.

We wanted to gauge the interest of our membership in medical cannabis and we obtained funding to undertake a Training Needs Survey during July. The results indicated a clear and decisive steer from 223 respondents, most of whom are doctors, to offer learning on this topic across a range of issues. Due to the level of interest expressed, we decided to proceed with plans to host a series of webinars with international speakers to highlight the use of cannabis as medicine.

Medical cannabis in the UK: an introduction (available as recorded)

The first of our webinars entitled Medical Cannabis in the UK: an Introduction was held during September with Dr Stephen Willott chairing and main speaker Dr Kishan Mahabir.

Dr Mahabir is a medical cannabis specialist based in Canada. His comprehensive presentation held the attention of the participants who signed on for the duration of the webinar (56 mins) with an attentiveness score of 87% and interest at 83% (as shown by the webinar software function which measures interest).  

A record number of participants registered for this webinar and we received many positive comments overall in the evaluations including Excellent webinar, maybe more detail re UK issues and Given it was an introduction, very comprehensive. Responses to the question of “Other topics to be covered?” included:

  • Is CBD useful in recovery?
  • Any place for CBD in opioid substitute treatment?
  • Managing the entry of medical cannabis into NHS prescribing.
Medical cannabis and anxiety – 22 October – Dr Dani Gordon. Register now.

We look forward to the next webinar in this series namely Medical cannabis and anxiety with Dr Dani Gordon. Register for free, those who watch ‘live’ will receive a CPD certificate. All our webinars are recorded and made available to watch again.

Medical cannabis – is there a role in the treatment of substance use disorders?Prof Nick Lintzeris. Coming in November, date to be confirmed.

SMMGP Project Team

References:

[i] Cannabis: The Evidence for Medical Use (2016) Professor Michael P Barnes MD FRCP, Honorary Professor of Neurological Rehabilitation, Newcastle University and Dr Jennifer C Barnes DPsychol, Clinical Psychologist, Northumberland, Tyne & Wear NHS Foundation Trust.

[ii] https://www.nice.org.uk/news/article/nice-draft-guidance-and-nhs-england-review-highlight-need-for-more-research-on-cannabis-based-medicinal-products