Key points

  • People in the UK have two options for getting a prescription for medical cannabis: they can go to a private clinic that specialises in treatment with cannabis or get a prescription through the NHS.
  • Only people who meet very strict criteria can get a prescription from the NHS, so going the private route is a much more viable option for most people. 
  • You can schedule a virtual consultation with the Medical Cannabis Clinics to speak to a specialist doctor about your medical cannabis prescription. 
  • We don’t recommend purchasing cannabis on the illicit market, as it is illegal and can be detrimental to your health.

Medical cannabis helps relieve a variety of symptoms in people who are suffering from pain, nausea, and mental health issues. While the law changed in 2018 to allow prescriptions of some medical cannabis, it is not so straightforward to get medical cannabis in the UK for your needs. This post explains the two routes you can take to get medical cannabis in the UK and explains when you might want to use one route over the other. 

How to get medical cannabis on the NHS

You can get medical cannabis in the UK on the NHS. However, getting this prescription is not so easy. Firstly, the NHS will only prescribe medical cannabis for: 

  • Chemotherapy patients suffering from nausea
  • Dravet syndrome 
  • Multiple sclerosis 
  • Lennox-Gastaut syndrome

Additionally, you also have to have tried at least two other remedies for the symptoms before you can obtain a referral to a specialist doctor. 

In 2019, only 18 people received medical cannabis prescriptions on the NHS. The previous year, no one received a prescription. Yet, 1.4 million people in the UK are using cannabis to alleviate their medical symptoms. 

Additionally, where you live may impact your access to medical cannabis. Not all NHS Trusts offer medical cannabis as a treatment. 

If you can get a referral from your GP and the specialist doctor feels medical cannabis is in your best interests, you will then need to have your prescription filled by a specialist pharmacy. 

If you’re considering using medical cannabis to treat your health concerns, we suggest making a virtual appointment with one of our specialists at the Medical Cannabis Clinics to discuss your situation in more detail.

How to get medical cannabis on a private prescription

Private healthcare can offer a much faster route to accessing medical cannabis for your conditions. Additionally, private practitioners can prescribe medical cannabis for a wider range of concerns. 

These conditions include: 

  • Appetite loss
  • Endometriosis
  • CRPS
  • Cancer
  • Nausea
  • Crohn’s disease
  • HIV and AIDs
  • Seizures
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Eating disorders
  • Glaucoma
  • Mental health conditions such as PTSD
  • Epilepsy
  • Muscle spasms
  • Chronic Pain
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Wasting Syndrome

While medical cannabis is not licensed for use in all these conditions, they are known as ‘qualifying conditions’, and so medical cannabis is known to help reduce symptoms.  Additionally, the cannabis you will be prescribed by a doctor is highly-regulated and quality controlled, and the levels of cannabinoids in it are known.

This is why it is safer to use a private practice to access medical cannabis. Equally, cannabis is still an illegal Class B drug in the UK. This means that even if you have a prescription for cannabis flowers, you cannot smoke them, and you must only vape them. 

Can anyone get a medical cannabis prescription in the UK? 

The short answer is no. You need to be diagnosed with one of the conditions listed above to be able to get a medical cannabis prescription from a private doctor in the UK. For an NHS prescription, you need to have one of the four conditions listed earlier in this article and meet additional criteria. 

Risks of buying cannabis on the illicit market

It’s estimated that around 6,000 people living in the UK are currently accessing a medical cannabis prescription from private practice. However, that leaves many more people buying their cannabis on the illicit market or taking the risk to grow their own even though it is illegal to grow cannabis in the UK. The UK is one of the biggest exporters of medical cannabis, but only licensed companies can legally grow medical cannabis. 

There are several risks that come with buying cannabis on the illicit market. Firstly, the quality of cannabis is unknown. When you get cannabis on a prescription, it is medical-grade quality. Secondly, the ingredients in cannabis you buy on the street are unknown, which means it could be laced with drugs and other harmful substances. 

Plus, cannabis plants have different levels of cannabinoids, including THC and CBD. When you get a private prescription, your doctor will make sure that the levels of cannabinoids are right for your needs.  

Finally, buying cannabis on the illicit market is illegal and funds crime. It is always safer to get a prescription. 

If you’re looking to get a medical cannabis prescription in the UK, we recommend going to a private clinic such as the Medical Cannabis Clinics. As the process is much quicker through private medicine, you are less likely to resort to using the illicit market to reduce adverse symptoms of your condition. 

Is CBD oil different from medical cannabis? 

Medical cannabis can be prescribed as an oil that you take under your tongue. However, this is different from the CBD oils and other products that you can buy in your local health shop. Usually, these oils have little CBD in them and are classed as food products rather than medicine. 

It is unlikely that these CBD products will have any impact on your symptoms. A medical practitioner will also prescribe you the right levels of cannabinoids for your needs. 

Conclusion

The easiest way to get medical cannabis in the UK is to use a specialist private doctor.  Private practices can prescribe medical cannabis for a wider range of symptoms than the NHS and have a faster process for doing so. Additionally, private practices provide a safer way to get medical cannabis than the illicit market, offering you safer medication and greater confidence that what you use will work for your symptoms. 

FAQs

Can I get a cannabis prescription for anxiety?

You may be able to get a cannabis prescription for anxiety in the UK through private medical healthcare. These specialist doctors will assess your needs, look at your GP diagnosis through your Summary Care report and, if it’s right for you, prescribe medical cannabis. You cannot get a cannabis prescription for anxiety on the NHS.

How do I get a prescription for Sativex?

Sativex is the name of one of the two medical cannabis medications licensed in the UK. You can get a prescription for this medication through specialist private doctors for a wide range of conditions in the UK. First, you will need to book a consultation, and the doctors will access your records before meeting with you. You will then be able to explain how your condition impacts your life and ask any questions you may have at your consultation. If Sativex is right for your needs, your doctor will prescribe the medication, and you will need to order it from a specific pharmacy. You cannot get Sativex through your GP, although if you meet certain criteria, they may make a referral to an NHS doctor. It is quicker and easier to access Sativex through a private practice like the Medical Cannabis Clinics.

References

  1. https://pharmaceutical-journal.com/article/news/nhs-provides-just-18-prescriptions-for-cannabis-based-medical-products-in-2019#:~:text=Recruiters-,NHS%20provides%20just%2018%20prescriptions%20for%20cannabis%2Dbased%20medical%20products,Care%20Quality%20Commission%20has%20found
  2.  https://ms-uk.org/news/1-4-million-cannabis-users-in-uk/