We may have nearly a century of misinformation telling us otherwise, but cannabis is a medicine.
The WHO’s 41st Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) has officially advised that “certain cannabis-derived medicines like cannabidiol have no potential to be abused or cause dependence but have significant health benefits”. Even THC, so often demonised, is now appreciated for its wide-spread therapeutic potential.
Cannabis based medications, even cannabis flower, are now readily available from cannabis clinics across the UK if you have an eligible condition, and has been since 2018. But even so, a recent survey undertaken by cannabis clinic Mamedica revealed that 84% of British people are unaware cannabis is available on prescription.
Just to compound the travesty of that fact, 60% would consider cannabis as an alternative to traditional medicine. Quite rightly so.
There are now around 17,000 cannabis patients in the UK, and that number is growing all the time. Cannabis products are being prescribed by top-of-their-field medical professionals for a vast range of conditions from chronic pain (like fibromyalgia, arthritis, cancer-related pain and MS) to epilepsy, Tourettes and anxiety. The number of potential applications are extensive, and the number of lives cannabis has now changed for the better are innumerable.
Yet the stigma that lingers is preventing many from considering cannabis as an option. Even in the face of well over 40,000 studies into cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system showing largely positive results and a stellar safety profile (particularly when compared with ‘standard’ pharmaceutical drugs).
While millennials and Gen Zs are finding it easier to keep up with this total U-turn on cannabis, older generations are struggling. This is beyond a shame, given that it’s mature people who are often in the greatest need of a gentle yet effective medicine that can help relieve a broad range of conditions.
There’s even evidence now to suggest that cannabis may help treat generally age-related conditions, such as Alzheimer’s. Not only does this cause suffering in the patient themselves, but it can also be incredibly hard to watch your loved ones live with the burden of these ailments, when you know they don’t have to.
So, for those of us who know cannabis might help our older loved ones, but are aware that they might not be receptive to it as a medicine: how do we change their minds?
Trust Your Doctor
One of the biggest hurdles we face is that our own doctors are, for the most part, uneducated when it comes to cannabis. There is still not one medical school in the UK that includes the endocannabinoid system on the syllabus, or cannabis as a medicine – only as a substance of abuse. This presents a serious problem, because naturally people want to trust their doctor. Particularly those from older generations.
This is totally understandable. We’re raised to entrust our GP with our intimate health concerns, and put our treatment into their hands. Not only is it not possible to get anything other than Sativex or Epidyolex on the NHS (and only after being passed to a consultant who is able to prescribe, which is rare), but many doctors are still clueless. Worse still, some are actively against cannabis as a medicine, because they are not up to date with the latest research.
It’s very important you feel safe when it comes to healthcare, and that you’re guided by a professional. Perhaps even more so for older generations, who are often less accustomed to taking their health into their own hands. This is why it’s vital to introduce your loved one to the outstanding medical professionals who are prescribing cannabis.
If you take a look at medical cannabis clinics in the UK (just Google them!) you’re likely to find a list of specialist, experienced clinicians who prescribe. It might be a good idea to find one who specialises in the need you’re hoping to address before you broach the subject.
For those who are really going to take a lot of persuading, you could even go to clinics that aren’t specifically cannabis clinics, but do prescribe cannabis. Leva, for example, is actually a pain management clinic where cannabis is an option.
Show them the evidence
Cannabis coverage in the media (which is where most people will have heard about ‘medical cannabis’, if they have at all) is pretty focused on childhood epilepsy. Because of this, it’s not uncommon for adults with other eligible conditions to not realise that cannabis is a viable treatment option for anything other than childhood epilepsy.
Of course, it is. And there’s plenty of evidence to prove just how safe and effective it can be. So do your research, and show them!
But, go beyond proof of efficacy for their conditions. Remember that the reason most people are averse to trying cannabis is because they have been well and truly duped by the lies that have been told about cannabis since the 1920s. They are very convincing. So, show them where and why prohibition began.
Tell them the story of Harry Anslinger and his cronies being out of a job when alcohol prohibition came to an end. How he attended more UN sessions than anyone else during his unprecedented 32 year run as commissioner to the new Federal Bureau of Narcotics, where he proceeded to chat up global leaders and policy makers to bring in much-needed post-war revenue and a free slave trade.
Explain how pharmaceutical companies stand to lose billions in profit if cannabis was made more widely accepted and available, due to an expected decrease of at least 25% of customers for potentially dangerous and addictive pharmaceutical medications they sell. Tell them about the history of cannabis, being a vital part of human evolution for 10,000 years, and about their endocannabinoid system.
But, be gentle. It’s totally understandable that they’ve bought the negative narrative. They just need to be shown the truth. Be kind, be patient, be educated! With knowledge comes power – the power to make the world a better place.
The whole façade about cannabis being a dangerous substance of abuse with no therapeutic benefit is already crashing down around us. Soon, thanks to the efforts of people like you, who want the best for people you love, what we’re been taught to believe about cannabis will change.
Hopefully your granny, grandad, mum or dad will be able to benefit from this, just like everyone else.
Ruby Deevoy is a U.K. cannabis journalist and the U.K’s only CBD columnist. Founder of The CBD Consultancy and is the primary press member for The Cannabis Industry Council. Tweets @RDeevoy.