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“It’s a big added stress on top of being so ill”: The challenges facing people prescribed cannabis in the UK.

Beckett Wilson, H and Metcalf McGrath, L (2023) “It’s a big added stress on top of being so ill”: The challenges facing people prescribed cannabis in the UK. International Journal of Drug Policy, 122. ISSN 0955-3959

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Open Access URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2023.104220 (Published version)


Background: This paper reports on the first study to interview people prescribed cannabis in the UK. Cannabis is a class B controlled substance under the 1971 Misuse of Drugs (MoD) Act, but a 2018 change to UK regulations provided for the prescription of cannabis for medical purposes. Relatively few people have been able to access a prescription, despite this policy change. This paper examines their experiences.
Methods: Qualitative, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 24 people with a prescription for cannabis, or their carers. Data was analysed using a reflective thematic analysis approach. The findings are discussed using a zemiology (social harms) perspective which provides a language for critical reflection on the current cannabis policy context.
Results: All participants reported that cannabis had significantly improved their mental and/or physical health, across a broad range of conditions. Many had been able to reduce their use of conventional medicines and reported that cannabis had relatively few side effects. Despite the potentially life-enhancing benefits of cannabis medicine, patients in the UK face multiple barriers to access. These include a lack of funding streams, bureaucratic supply problems, and a lack of training for doctors and police. Even for the few people able to obtain a prescription, the ongoing criminalisation of cannabis in the UK contributed to their experiences of stigmatisation. This often made it difficult and anxiety-inducing to take their medicine in public spaces.
Conclusion: The UK government’s lack of implementation of medical cannabis legalisation, combined with the ongoing prohibition position, is producing multiple harms to people who need cannabis medicine. The policy context is perpetuating stigmatising attitudes to cannabis which, as we demonstrate, contribute to social harms. We make recommendations on improving access to patients and on education as a means of combatting stigma.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Drug policy; Health inequality; Medical cannabis; Prohibition; Social harm; Stigma; 11 Medical and Health Sciences; 16 Studies in Human Society; 17 Psychology and Cognitive Sciences; Substance Abuse
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
R Medicine > RM Therapeutics. Pharmacology
R Medicine > RS Pharmacy and materia medica
Divisions: Justice Studies (from Sep 19)
Publisher: Elsevier
SWORD Depositor: A Symplectic
Date Deposited: 19 Oct 2023 14:57
Last Modified: 19 Oct 2023 14:57
DOI or ID number: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2023.104220
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/21728
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