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1.4 Million British Adults Using ‘street Cannabis’ To Treat Chronic Health Conditions

By David Saunders, Health Editor | UPDATED: 11:41, 13 November 2019

The Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC) has welcomed the new NICE guidelines relating to the prescribing of cannabis-based medicinal products for people with intractable nausea and vomiting, chronic pain, spasticity and severe treatment-resistant epilepsy but urges the Government to urgently accelerate patient access and clinical learning via the NHS as it reveals shocking new polling data.

A new poll conducted for the CMC and CPASS by YouGov reveals for the first time the true extent of illicit adult use of ‘street cannabis’ to treat the symptoms of chronic conditions.

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“For the first time we have reliable, representative data regarding the number of people in Britain using cannabis as a medicine. Over a million people are using cannabis illegally to relieve their symptoms. The findings are astounding and present a national challenge. We urgently require robust clinical evidence to evaluate the safety and efficacy of cannabinoid medicines”

— Dr Daniel Couch, Medical Lead, Centre for Medicinal Cannabis

Previous reports have estimated that between 50,000 and 1.1 million people in the UK are already using cannabis in this way, excluding recreational use. However, criticism of this data, open to observational, selection and reporting bias, has prevented their inclusion in national policy deliberations. In our survey we sought to accurately identify the incidence of street-available cannabis use for medical intent amongst the general population in England, Wales and Scotland.

Today we can reveal, from the largest ever polling sample, the incidence of use of street-available cannabis for a diagnosed medical problem amongst the general population is much higher than previously understood and may therefore be closer to 1.4 million users in Britain (2.8% of the adult population).

56% of those using cannabis for their conditions did so on a daily basis, with a further 23% on a weekly basis. 9% spent nothing on cannabis (implying self-grown use), 44% spent up to £99 per month, with a further 21% spending between £100 and £199. Further information regarding which diagnoses cannabis was used for, in addition to which social, age and geographical groups used cannabis in this was collected and will be published in a forthcoming report.

In the coming days, the CMC will set out new proposals for how NICE should evaluate CBMPs in the next 5-10 years whilst we wait for new randomised controlled trial (RCT) data to emerge, host a policy seminar in London to explore how the Danish Government responded to similar challenges and announce the launch of a major new clinical research conference in London.

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