Irish woman afraid of getting arrested if she brings her medical pot home from the UK.

Stephen Andrews
06 Sep 2021

The woman is using medicinal cannabis to treat her ADHD in the UK and is calling for full decriminalisation of cannabis to allow patients like her to return home safely.

A Cork woman who lives in the UK fears her returning home to Ireland may end up in trouble with customs officials should she try to bring her cannabis medicine across the border. 

As the Irish Examiner reports, Caroline Barry is one of the first to be prescribed medicinal pot for her ADHD in the UK. However, she is not the first person who is facing a choice to either return to Ireland without her prescribed medicine or remain abroad to continue access to her treatments.

Ms Barry said her ADHD symptoms became unmanageable with the onset of the pandemic, leaving her on the verge of a mental breakdown and in dire need of help. She found comfort in medicinal cannabis as a relaxant which calmed down her racing mind. 

Ms Barry moved from Ireland to Nottingham to pursue a PhD. Changing careers from journalism to makeup artistry, she now specialises in cannabis and CBD journalism. 

Having been diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 10, the Cork woman told the Examiner the condition has hugely impacted her life. It has affected her performance at school, jobs and has also made maintaining relationships difficult. 

She said: "It was hugely difficult to manage. I was very full-on at school, I had a lot of energy. I could be quite inattentive to school work and make silly mistakes because of it."

Ms Barry said she had no concept of risk, and she was either 100% focused on a task or had no focus at all. Stigma around mental health conditions such as ADHD has not been helpful and has made things more exhausting and challenging to manage over time. However, what made Ms Barry's situation truly unbearable was the global pandemic and a succession of lockdowns.

She says: "A lot of people with ADHD put mechanisms in place to help them cope. I have lower levels of dopamine than other people, so I'd schedule new or exciting things to do, like seeing people, going for a walk or coffee or the cinema — to give me little dopamine top-ups. But when all that was gone I found it very difficult to get those little dopamine hits.

"I started to become hyper-focused with work. I'd forget to eat and because I was at home I couldn't just walk away from the office at 5pm. My work/life balance became very unhealthy. I also have an anxiety disorder and that became more difficult to manage too. By Christmas I was mentally very unwell."

In the UK, Ms Barry found a clinic that would prescribe her medicinal cannabis. She began taking her cannabis medicine in July and has reported improvements since. 

While she can freely use medicinal pot in the UK, according to Irish laws, Ms Barry is at risk of having her medication taken from her upon entering Ireland. She also faces the danger of getting arrested.

In Ireland, cannabis is a controlled drug under the Misuse of Drugs Acts, 1977 to 2015. In 2019 the country introduced The Medicinal Cannabis Access Program (MCAP), which "will make it possible for a medical consultant to prescribe a cannabis-based treatment for a patient under his or her care", but only for a limited number of medical conditions and in cases when the "the patient has failed to respond to standard treatments". Those treatments include spasticity associated with Multiple sclerosis, difficult-to-treat nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy, and severe forms of epilepsy. 

The program, for now, has no mention of mental health conditions such as the one Ms Barry is struggling with. 

Ms Barry says: "I cannot return home to live because I would lose my legal status and then have to break the law to get my medication. I'm not the only person in this situation but one of the only ones who have a prescription for ADHD, not chronic pain or epilepsy.

"MCAP is not even operational yet in Ireland. Irish patients are leaving the country to access safe cannabis in countries like Spain. They shouldn't have to".

Stephen Andrews