Life

In My View: A 'natural' remedy can be harmful as well...

Increasing numbers of patients are demanding their GPs prescribe cannabis oil for pain relief – they can't
Dr Martin Scurr

IT STILL surprises me that people can be wary of taking medication that has been rigorously tested, yet relaxed about using products not so thoroughly investigated purely because they are ‘natural'.

A case in point is medicinal cannabis oil, which came to prominence with the story of Billy Caldwell. As you may recall, his mother was stopped at the UK border after trying to bring a cannabis product from Canada to help with Billy's severe epilepsy.

It led to a change in the law which allowed specialist doctors – not GPs – to prescribe cannabis oil (quite different from the less potent cbd products in the High Street) in specific circumstances.

Now, increasing numbers of patients are demanding their GPs prescribe cannabis oil to them for pain relief (which they cannot).

Given the paucity of evidence we have about the benefits of cannabis oil in this respect, I am surprised so many are keen to try it. If it were a drug from a pharmaceutical firm, I doubt they'd be so enthusiastic.

It may yet prove to be beneficial, but there are 60 or more active compounds in the plant and we know little about most of them.

Here is what we do know: although there is some evidence of cannabis oil bringing pain relief in some conditions, such as the painful muscle spasms of multiple sclerosis, you need to treat 20 people to get a 30 per cent reduction in pain in one person.

Furthermore, you have to treat only six people to cause harm in the form of side-effects such as dizziness, dry mouth, nausea, fatigue and confusion.

So most doctors – still in the dark and awaiting better information and enlightenment – wisely adhere to the old principle: first, do no harm.

© Solo dmg media

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