Survey suggests shift in attitudes toward cannabis among UK medical community

Liz Filmer
01 Jan 2024

A small survey of UK healthcare professionals has shown that 65%  believed medical cannabis should be obtainable on the NHS for managing pain, underlying illnesses, mental health issues and PTSD when other established treatments have not had effect.

92% also expressed that they would prefer if patients were open with them about their use of prohibited cannabis for therapeutic purposes.

The anonymous survey by UK-based medical cannabis company Grow Pharma canvassed more than 300 healthcare professionals at all levels, including consultants, trainees, pharmacists, GPs, and nurses.

 The questionnaire aimed to attain a better insight into the concerns and concerns surrounding views on medicinal cannabis within the medical community.

The findings show a medical community that is ‘ready to understand’ and ‘potentially welcome change’ on a subject that has long been seen as ‘controversial’. 

Nearly 90% of those surveyed were aware that unlicensed cannabis medicines could be prescribed in private clinics since 2018 and 76% thought themselves to be ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ knowledgeable on the subject of medical cannabis.

When questioned if they thought medical cannabis should be obtainable on the NHS, 65% agreed, and 73% said that they would prescribe it in this instance or if advised by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. 

18% of those surveyed would be inclined to write a private prescription for unlicensed medicines within their NHS Clinic, and 34% were willing to prescribe as a personal consultant but not as an NHS doctor. However, 22% would hesitate to name a private prescription while working as an NHS doctor.

The main concerns for prescribing medical cannabis were a shortage of research/evidence (24%), imprecise dosing guidelines (26%), possibility for abuse/misuse (21%), legal/ethical considerations (11%), and other motivations (18%).

These findings are ‘promising’, as they emphasise the challenges confronting cannabis patients when it comes to healthcare.

Respondents to the survey voiced an interest in learning more about varied topics connected to medical cannabis, including the endocannabinoid system(10%), strains and formulations(13%), risks and side effects(16%), legal and regulatory issues (12%), dosing estimates(14%), medication interactions(10%), how to manage an adept and educated patient (9%) monitoring and evaluating efficacy(13%), and other(3%) peer support facilities.

“While the concerns expressed by respondents are valid, they are also a testament to a cautious yet open-minded approach. The desire to learn more about the endocannabinoid system, dosing guidelines, potential risks and side effects, and legal and regulatory landscapes is something that the industry can address quite easily by organising educational events". The researchers stated in conclusion.

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Liz Filmer