Medical herbs are often touted as a way to combat and treat some of the world’s deadliest diseases.
But there is growing evidence that they can also help people who are struggling to cope with the conditions.
In the UK, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency is looking at whether to allow medicinal herbs to be sold as a supplement, and the Medicinal Cannabis Act 2016, which comes into effect in October, will also allow medicinal cannabis to be used in certain situations.
The new laws will also bring in the most progressive legal framework for medicinal cannabis in the world.
In Ireland, which has one of the lowest rates of cannabis use among the countries in Europe, the move is a major milestone in the country’s approach to medicinal cannabis.
Medical herbs could be a gateway drug in a society where the idea of using them to treat certain conditions has never been more popular.
“I don’t think there is any doubt that there are patients out there who have cannabis issues, that they may not have a natural way to deal with their condition,” said Dr Stephen Barrett, a consultant psychiatrist and professor of psychiatry at the University of Strathclyde in the UK.
“The question is how they are going to be able to manage that in the future, and I think that is a good question.”
Dr Barrett has been researching medicinal cannabis for some time, and he said he hoped that the new legislation would pave the way for more people to be using it to manage their illnesses.
“One of the problems that I think is going to occur is the ability to prescribe and use medical cannabis in a way that is safe, and that is not dangerous,” he said.
Dr Bryan Brown, chief executive of the National Organisation for the Treatment of Cannabis Dependence, said the move was welcome. “
We need to see some changes to how medical cannabis is regulated in this country, which will allow more people the ability and freedom to use it for a wider range of conditions.”
Dr Bryan Brown, chief executive of the National Organisation for the Treatment of Cannabis Dependence, said the move was welcome.
“This is good news for patients who are in a vulnerable position and need cannabis for medical conditions,” he told The Irish Sun.
Dr Brown said there was no scientific evidence linking medicinal cannabis use to any serious health issues, and said it could help patients who needed to access cannabis as a non-pharmacological treatment for their condition. “
Currently, patients can only access medicinal cannabis if they have an NHS prescription, but we believe this new law will enable more people access to cannabis for their needs.”
Dr Brown said there was no scientific evidence linking medicinal cannabis use to any serious health issues, and said it could help patients who needed to access cannabis as a non-pharmacological treatment for their condition.
He said he believed that patients who were in a desperate situation and needed cannabis for relief would benefit from the new law.
“Many of the patients that are suffering from cancer or other conditions are in extreme poverty and it is very important that we give them access to healthcare,” he added.
“For the majority of people, there is no other way to manage or treat their condition.”
Mr Barrett said that the move would allow more patients to be accessing medical cannabis, but that there was a real risk of people taking advantage of the new legal framework.
“People who are seeking help for medical cannabis are not always ready for it.
They need a prescription, they need a doctor’s prescription and they need to be approved,” he explained.
“A lot of these people are going through an illness where they are not going to get their prescribed treatment, and they are relying on the medicinal cannabis law as a pathway to accessing cannabis.”
Dr Brian McCarthy, chief medical officer of the Royal College of Physicians, said he was happy with the move.
“Cannabis is a safe and effective treatment option for some patients, and we welcome the move to allow people to obtain cannabis from licensed producers,” he wrote in an email to The Irish Press.
“However, we are concerned that this will open the door to exploitation of patients with chronic conditions.”
Professor Barrett said the medicinal use of cannabis could help with a range of medical conditions.
“Mood disorders are an area that I am aware of where there is a need for medicinal use, for example for people who have depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress,” he noted.
“Some of the things that medicinal cannabis can do for these patients are reducing nausea and vomiting and reducing the amount of THC in the patient’s body, but for many people it is also able to treat depression.”