Over a million Brits illegally self-medicating with cannabis, survey finds

More than a million British people are using black market cannabis to treat medicinal ailments, it has been claimed, following a major new survey into daily use of the drug.

Industry association the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis and pollsters YouGov questioned 10,603 adults in England, Wales and Scotland about the extent of their illicit marijuana use in what is the largest survey undertaking of its kind.

According to the research, more than 1.4 million people, or 2.8 percent of the adult population, self-medicate with cannabis to treat chronic health conditions.

Individuals across all age groups, social classes and genders are using cannabis therapeutically, the report found, with almost half spending over £100 per month on their symptomatic relief.

The CMC said the government must review its stance on medical cannabis in the wake of the findings. 

Founder Steve Moore said the results reflect what the group has long believed and urged lawmakers to respond by relaxing the regulations around cannabis prescriptions.

“Other countries such as Denmark and France faced with these same challenges have established national medicinal cannabis pilots – we urge the UK government to do likewise,” said Moore.

The UK updated its laws in October 2018 to allow for doctors to prescribe medical cannabis, but only recently have two products have been approved for NHS use, and patients have reported difficulties in accessing cannabis-based medicines.

Epidyolex became available for British epilepsy sufferers from  January 6 after the government approved it for NHS use, along with mouth spray while Sativex, which contains CBD and THC and is used to treat multiple sclerosis.

The survey indicates that 11.82 percent of UK citizens suffering from epilepsy use cannabis to self-medicate, and about 19.23 percent of multiple sclerosis patients do the same. 

The highest prevalence of self-medication is in people suffering from Huntington’s disease (41.67 percent), schizophrenia (41.18 percent) and Parkinson’s disease (30.43 percent).

However, given the previous government and health service statements medicinal cannabis, the sample size is likely to be too small to make a difference to official thinking.

Of the 4,916 participants that had stated that they had a medical condition, 281 said that they currently used cannabis to help manage or treat symptoms of their conditions or side effects brought on by treatment. 

Of those 281 respondents, 157 use it on a daily basis, 66 on a weekly basis, 24 on a monthly basis, 22 less than monthly, nine answered “don’t know” and three chose “prefer not to say”.


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