Should You Tell Your Doctor If You Are Using Cannabis?
Last year, a report by two leading researchers on cannabis’ medicinal potential, Professor Val Curran of University College London and co-author Frank Warburton, director of DrugScope, was published. After carrying out an extensive meta-analysis of global studies into the therapeutic benefits of cannabis, the study concluded that it is a much-needed medicine.
“In the UK there is increasing acceptance within the medical profession and elsewhere of the use of cannabis and cannabis derivatives medically,” the report outlines. “However, this has been reflected only marginally in government policy and a significant number of people are not authorised to receive medication which they believe will alleviate their condition.”
Curran and Warburton also put forward a number of recommendations for improving the astonishing situation where British citizens are having their human rights compromised by their own government.
“People would be prescribed medicinal cannabis by a doctor,” they firmly concluded, whilst arguing why laws of medicinal cannabis use must change. “Medicinal cannabis could be imported from Bedrocan (Holland’s single approved medicinal supplier).
“They [the patients] would therefore no longer have to break the law by using an illicit substance or go to Holland to buy the drug. This would enhance the human rights of those who find the drug helpful e.g. for the relief of chronic pain.”
Of course the other benefits would include the fact that important research into the medicinal applications would no longer be hampered, or held in a “stranglehold” as the report puts it. “It would greatly facilitate research on the medical uses of cannabis, thus stimulating UK medical research into the drug and its constituents.”
Some patients value getting their hands on what they believe to be a valuable medicine above breaking the law. Jeff Ditchfield’s Bud Buddies scheme, that supplies sick people with cannabis extracts, is evidence of that.
Patients of the Bud Buddies (BB) scheme that are illegally using cannabis to alleviate symptoms are not advised to inform their doctor. “At BB for years we used to advise people that they should be open with their doctor,” explains Jeff as we sat in Leeds City Centre last week, “but now we don’t advise people to be so open.”
“That’s mainly because of a change in the law. In the old days it used to be that anything you said to your doctor was strictly confidential. Now, not so much; there is a duty of care placed on clinicians. If someone’s driving could be impaired they now have an obligation to report that to the DVLA.
“We heard of cases where patients have told their doctors about their cannabis oil use and have been reported. They lost their licence despite not having tried to drive under the influence of their medicine. So we don’t advise anyone to tell their doctor anymore.”
So what does the future hold for medical cannabis users in the UK? Who knows what could happen, but as long as the draconian Misuse of Drugs Act is still in force it doesn’t look radiant. We have a situation where patients are unsure whether they will be branded a criminal by their own doctor.
It seems that despite the tsunami of scientific data proving that people with a range of illnesses can be treated with cannabis, the UK remains lagging behind in recognising that. A common sense, science-based, moral approach to laws surrounding medical cannabis still remains a pipe dream.
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