Because it was so frustrating, I’ve vowed to raise awareness and signpost some stuff in the hopes it saves people coming after me a little stress and time?
Edit 2: This: I know it seems silly, but I feel compelled to say this: The following information should not be considered in any way substitute for professional legal or medical advice.
10+ years of chronic lower back pain (disk related)
Broad range of steadily stronger drugs
Cannabis used to voluntarily wean off opiates
Research legal legitimacy
Approach NHS – told it’s the better choice but ‘sorry, can’t help’
Approach private clinic
Provide brief overview
Obtain 10 years of chronic pain treatment medical notes
Send to specialist
I was prescribed medical cannabis recently (at time of post, 2 weeks ish ago) and I’ve decided I should help raise awareness because everyone I speak to is completely out of the loop. Like, over a year out of the loop. And the loop’s changing almost daily. Such that government websites can’t even keep up.
I’ve spoken to three doctors, my (now ex-) pain specialist and a pharmacist working at senior level in a major UK supermarket chain and none of them were able to provide me with any guidance or assistance, beyond being admittedly ignorant or outright guessing.
That needs to change. And it *is* changing. But still not fast enough.
So for the people who want to get straight to the details, I went to My Access Clinics in Bristol. The specialist I consulted was excellent and clearly empathised with my situation. It was an hour long meeting (with his PA in attendence taking notes) which cost me £150. It lasted about an hour and we discussed my history and current situation in depth. At the end of the session he had no reservations whatsoever.
“12:30, press return.”
To date, over the past 10+ years, I have been prescribed numerous quantities, with varying degrees of success and failure, of the following, to manage my pain:
I’ve self-treated with:
Back and shoulder supports
‘Regular’ exercise – walking, cycling, working,
Trigger point therapy and accupressure
Once I’d reached the morphine stage (around September last year) I made the decision that opiates weren’t the way forward. I tried (very expensive) high-strength CBD oil, to no avail. I then tried so called ‘full spectrum cannabis’ (containing psycoactive THC – illegally, I might add) – and it worked.
I’ve been in varying degrees of pain (depending on what meds I was prescribed) pretty much every day for the last…12 years I guess?
I haven’t used cannabis for a good 20 years, bar the occasional christmas party.
And for the record, I wouldn’t usually go private for any medical needs. I’m a firm believer in the NHS and I genuinelly admire and respect the people who work there. But cannabis has been politicised, demonised and stigmatised. And I’d apparently exhausted all of the options available to me under the NHS, bar spinal injections and surgery.
My pain doesn’t care what stigmas there are.
My pain doesn’t care what the law says.
My pain doesn’t care what anyone thinks.
Yep, even you. And you know how much I love you, right?
It sure as hell doesn’t care what I think.
I love the NHS and everything it stands for. They saved my wife’s life, after all, and kept my old man ticking a good few years despite his attempts to the contrary. So I want to be absolutely clear here that I’m not attacking the NHS (though I have some harsh thoughts about politicians, NICE and a good number of Americans (who are thankfully now largely dead <spit>)). But more on them later – I’m going to be raising awareness, but not all at once.
Here’s a rundown (with notes) of what I’ve been through from the point of deciding to stop taking opiates.
Step 1: Source a trustworthy, illegal source of good-quality cannabis.
Step 2: Act casual. Don’t get caught.
Step 3: Figure out how much I need as a thereputic dose that doesn’t result in unwanted side effects such as euphoria. Trickier than it sounds.
Step 4: Experiment with dose sizes in (vegan) cookies.
Step 5: Smoke it as a temporary solution to immediately wean off opiates.
The transition from opiates was relatively smooth. I didn’t experience any of the withdrawl symptoms I’ve encountered previously with these types of meds. The trick, I found, was to consume just enough cannabis to emulate the effects of opiates (what I came to think of as the ‘body feel’). And it worked. I’ve been opiate free (bar one terrible couple of weeks with an acute condition) since October 2019.
Once I was ‘stable’, I started researching. It seemed utterly nonsensical for my GP and pain specialist to dish out morphine but not consider cannabis?
It turns out cannabis is ‘unlicensed’ medicine in the UK. In broad terms, only a doctor on the specialst register (you can check yours here: https://www.gmc-uk.org/registration-and-licensing/the-medical-register#searchTheRegister ) can prescribe it.
Step 6: Speak to GP. No joy.
Step 7: Speak to pain specialist. No joy. Can’t prescribe it.
Step 8: Speak to different GP. No joy. Can’t prescribe it.
Step 9: More research.
Step 10: Get angry at all the propaganda, lies, stupidity and downright corruption surrounding what is actually a very, very simply ‘problem’ to solve.
Cannabis isn’t licensed because there supposedly isn’t the scientific data to prove its worth as a drug. I kid you not. It’s bordering on Orwellian doublethink (and, no, that’s not ganja-induced paranoia). There have been (and are) powerful financial interests behind this, sadly. I’ll elaborate on that later but, if you’re curious, look into what this racist, greedy POS did as a single example ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_J._Anslinger#The_campaign_against_marijuana_(cannabis)_1930%E2%80%931937 )
tldr; Criminalised cannabis to marginalise people of colour and crush competition from hemp. He died in 1975 and his disgusting influence is still in the air.
There are other, more recent (current) people profitting from this ‘arrangement’ in the UK. But let’s not get bogged down in boring details.
As an aside, when I was arguing with my pharmacist about the law, he kept wispering the word, as though it were somehow dirty. His knowledge of the law as it currently stands was over a year out of date. And he’s managing a major supermarket pharmacy.
Anyhoops…where was I? Oh yeah, so I thought (using my newly stolen philosophy: ‘no single drop feels responsible for the flood’), “I should sign up for Project ‘Twenty21′”. Which is an organisation trying to enrol 20,000 UK patients using medical cannabis by the end of 2021. This cohort will provide the medical data set needed to push this through – despite there being no end of peer-reviewed papers globally (from more progressive, free thinking nations (like, in Europe)) even an idiot like me can find…. <Sigh>.
Step 10: Sign up to Twenty21.
I encourage anyone considering medical cannabis to sign up here: https://drugscience.org.uk/project-twenty21/
The organisation was started by Professor David Nutt who was sacked by the then government (is just me, or are British governments all the same now) because he and his team pointed out some home truths, backed up with, you know, science and logic and maybe even a dash of actual care. The government brought him in to find out, definitively, what ‘we’ should do about the ‘drug problem’. When he told them what he thought, they sacked him. No prizes for guessing what the committee suggested.
He’s also Professor of Neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London. So if a politician is saying certain chemicals are ‘bad’, and he’s saying ‘no they’re not’, who would you choose to believe?
And look, folks, I’m not saying drugs don’t cause problems. But drug use and addiction are health issues, not criminal ones.
But here we are living in the UK and… did you know – oh this makes me so angry – that the UK is one of the largest producers of medical cannabis in the world? – …here I am, having to potentially put myself at risk physically (I didn’t, but people all too often do) and legally.
Because the other choices I have are opiate addiction, high-risk surgery or suicide-inducing pain. Cool.
Stay calm. Be like water. Persist.
Step 11: Seek a specialist clinic.
Step 12: Make initial contact.
Step 13: Go to my GP surgery and get a ‘Data Subject Access Request Form’.
Step 14: Specify that I need treatment data for chronic pain to date going back last 10 years.
Step 15: Send medical notes to specialist.
Step 16: Wait for appointment options (offices in London and Bristol).
Step 17: Speak to misinformed pharmacists in vain attempts to have them dispense the completely legal prescription.
Step 18: Tell the pharmacist he doesn’t have to whisper it. It’s not a dirty word ‘and you’re still wrong’.
Step 19: Finish shopping and apologise to pharmacist.
Step 19a: Stay on target…Stay on target!
Step 20: Attend specialist appointment.
Stop 21: Wait 6-8 weeks for medicine to be dispensed because, guess what, there are license issues (which are apparently going to be changed very soon) and the cannabis oil is coming from…wait for it…Australia….
So we’re flying a plane over from Australia to bring completely safe plant oil that can’t, for reasons of current and historical corruption, racism and greed, be grown and processed in the UK, despite it growing out of our bloody ears.
And that’s kind of where I am right now.
My next steps are to engage with major pharmacies and see they train their staff appropriately as to the law. I’ll also be querying their public facing policy on medical cannabis and hopefully raise some awareness that way.
But I’m treading completely new territory here, so I’m kind of feeling my way right now.