My son thrives on cannabis oil - but the draft NICE guidelines entrench the difficulties of getting Eddie the prescription he needs

Viewpoint by Ilmarie Braun

Last week saw both the publication of the draft NICE guidelines and the findings of the NHS Review commissioned by the Heath Secretary Matt Hancock into the barriers families like ours are facing in accessing an NHS prescription for medicinal cannabis products.

Both the guidance and the review shattered the tiny hope I had been clinging on to that either of these documents would make our fight to get my son Eddie a prescription easier. Eddie has severe epilepsy and cerebral palsy. Cannabis oils have drastically reduced Eddie’s seizures and given him much improved quality of life.

Can Drug Consumption Rooms Reduce Drug-related Harms in the UK?

Euan Hunt

With increasing use in Europe and recent discussion in the UK, it’s useful to explore what Drug Consumption Rooms really are and their impact.

Drug Consumption Rooms (DCRs), also known as “Overdose Prevention Centres” and more pejoratively as “shooting galleries” are healthcare facilities, usually run by charities or the state, where healthcare professionals supervise drug users to consume drugs in a safe environment. They provide safe and sterile paraphernalia (the biggest emphasis is placed on needles but smoking and inhalants can be tended to as well). As well as preventing overdoses, DCRs aim to reduce drug use in public and improve public amenity in areas surrounding urban drug markets. For example, in Barcelona, the number of unsafely disposed syringes being collected was at a monthly average of over 13,000 in 2004 which fell to around 3,000 in 2012 (Vecino et al., 2013). They also help addicts connect with addiction treatment and other support. Over half of them are open on a daily basis and are open for an average of eight hours a day.

We must seriously consider decriminalisation for patients unable to access cannabis-based medicines on the NHS

We must seriously consider decriminalisation for patients unable to access cannabis-based medicines on the NHS

David King, Senior Researcher

The draft NICE guidelines for the use of Cannabis-based medicinal products (CBMPs), which were published last week, contained no recommendations for the use of CBMPs except nabilone as an add-on treatment for adults suffering from intractable nausea and vomiting. Thus, for now, prescriptions of CBMPs on the NHS are likely to remain effectively unavailable. That these guidelines were highly restrictive and risk-averse came as no surprise to most, but nonetheless a huge disappointment for many.

Let’s end the harms of cannabis prohibition

Let’s end the harms of cannabis prohibition

Viewpoint by Andrew Boff AM

At heart, I’m a libertarian - I believe that people should be free to make their own choices. But drugs reform is more than this. It’s about safety and protecting people from harm - a harm of government making.

Cannabis is out there and people are using it - to say that criminalisation is working is borderline delusional. The government’s own data shows that 30 per cent of 16 to 59-year olds in England and Wales have smoked cannabis. This is slightly higher for 16 to 24-year olds, at 30.7 per cent, which suggests usage is rising. Much of this will be provided by the black market - drug dealers don’t have age restrictions or product standards.

Public Support for Drug Law Reform Soars

Rob Wilson, CEO

The Conservative Drug Policy Reform Group’s (CDPRG) extensive YouGov survey of contemporary British attitudes towards drugs will make for uncomfortable reading within Government. It illustrates the widening gulf between the stubborn, decades-old policies of blanket prohibition and the developing attitude of millions of voters willing to apply new approaches focused on improving harm reduction and healthcare outcomes. This survey shows the Government and politicians are significantly behind the public’s thinking.

The public is clearly aware that the current policies of prohibition and criminalisation are frequently unenforced and likely to be unenforceable. Despite its stark ‘just say no’ message, current policy and its implementation is almost entirely equivocal. It leaves public policy in a lethal and seemingly unchangeable limbo, wreaking havoc in terms of outcomes to families and communities as well as economic and social costs to society.

Barriers for British patient access to medicinal cannabis outlined by Select Committee

Barriers for British patient access to medicinal cannabis outlined by Select Committee

Dave King, Senior Researcher

Despite the rescheduling of cannabis-based medicinal products (CBMPs) in November 2018, which theoretically allowed British patients access to such medications, only very limited numbers of patients have been able to benefit. While many patients and families believe that CBMPs are now available, this is simply not the case and it is worrying that this has has soured patient-clinician relationships.

Last week, Parliament’s Health and Social Care Committee (HSSC) published Drugs policy: medicinal cannabis, summarizing how the rescheduling of cannabis-based medicinal products has affected clinical practice and providing an overview of current obstacles in accessing CBMPs through the UK health system. Here we discuss those barriers.

"It's a myth that we can arrest our way out of drug problems" - Mike Barton speech at CDPRG launch

Former Chief Constable Durham Police Mike Barton

I joined Lancashire police in 1980 and this month I retired as Chief Constable of Durham. Throughout those 39 years the drug laws have essentially remained unchanged.

In 2000 the Police Federation’s review of drugs and the law, supported by the Home Office, found no evidence that severe custodial penalties or their enforcement, however vigorous, was having any impact on supply. They said the law should be based on seven principles. I will deal with just the first three.

Firstly it should be used as a means of reducing demand and support the broader agenda of health, prevention and education. Well, since 2000 the police have advocated a health-based approach and yet it is still primarily seen as a criminal justice issue.

"Our drug laws need fundamental review" - Dr Clare Gerada's speech at CDPRG launch

Dr Clare Gerada, 27th June 2019

I have been a GP for nearly three decades and before that a psychiatrist. All of this time I have worked with patients with substance misuse problems. First with the large number of heroin addicts we had in the 1980’s and 1990’s – which then moved to crack cocaine, other stimulants and more recently drugs such as mephedrone, ecstasy and its derivates and a whole host of drugs euphuistically called ‘club drugs’.

Introducing the Conservative Drug Policy Reform Group

Drug policy is a fast changing and increasingly vital aspect of public policy. When our Chair, Crispin Blunt MP, asked me to undertake the CEO role at the Conservative Drug Policy Reform Group (CDPRG), we agreed two things: 

  • first that CDPRG would be completely independent in its thinking and 

  • second, that thinking would be exclusively based on where the evidence takes us. I do not come at this with any agenda, I have an open mind and a wish to reflect the evidence and reduce harm.