Cannabis and MS

Liz Filmer
29 Dec 2022

Andy Lowe found himself out of work five years ago after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and living alone. He never expected that cannabis would be the thing that turned his life around.

"I was so ill that I didn't want to eat, the pain was horrendous. I'd set myself one goal a day, like having breakfast or a shower, but even that was tough".

"I've gone from lying in my armchair to being fully functional. My appetite is back to normal, and I'm finally able to get a good night's sleep. The pain and the spasms have completely subsided. I buzz about in my wheelchair and go up to the shops… I'm really happy."

He is just one of the thousands of people who access medicinal cannabis privately and not through the NHS. Currently, only 17,000 people are being treated with medicinal cannabis through the NHS, despite there being many that could benefit from treatment. 

The NHS accepts only three conditions for approval of cannabis prescriptions. They are the following: severe epilepsy, muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis and cancer-related nausea.

Mr Lowe's prescribed strains have a high level of THC that ease pain before he goes to sleep. The cannabis is added to a dosing capsule filled up at various points throughout the day to use in a vaporiser.

"If I take it in the morning it helps settles my legs down, and I can also go out in public. It's very discreet". 

According to the MS Society, around one in ten people with MS who have pain or muscle spasticity may benefit from cannabis treatment. A 2017 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) review also discovered that people who took cannabis orally said it positively affected their spasticity. 

Outside of the halls of Westminster, the general population seems to be slowly growing more in favour of legalisin. A  2018 poll has found that 59 per cent of Britons support the legalisation of cannabis. Private treatment comes at a price, however. Mr Lowe pays roughly £400 every ten weeks for his oils but says it is well spent. 

There appears to be a real "frustration" that people have to pay to access medicinal cannabis, especially with many struggling with the cost of living crisis or losing their jobs for health reasons or redundancy.

Cannabis medication should be available on the NHS. There were 50 million NHS prescriptions written last year for Opioids at a cost of hundreds of millions of pounds. Just think of the money that the NHS could save.

Many experts believe legalisation is "inevitable" as public demand continues to increase over the next few years. It is predicted that the level of UK medical cannabis users may reach 337,000 by the year 2024.

Suppose Europe legislates for legalisation and adult recreational sales begin. In that case, the UK will likely be pulled along. Cannabis is a lucrative business, and there will be a lot of demand.

In Mr Lowes's case,  the drug's effect has been undeniable. He hopes his story will start a conversation about how many people could benefit from them. "I'm not doing this to get stoned, I need it for the pain".

Liz Filmer