The legalisation of medical cannabis next month will lead to a crisis of addiction and crime, leading experts have warned.
Doctors will be able to dish out cannabis oils and other products as of November 1 in England, Scotland and Wales.
However, in a scathing letter, 166 pain consultants from across the UK claim they risk ‘becoming drug dealers inadvertently’.
They warned people are already asking for cannabis from their doctors, and worry they will be exploited by drug dealing gangs if they’re turned down by the NHS.
In the letter, they said they support the law change – but wrote: ‘We have suffered an opioid crisis and foresee history about to repeat itself.
Medical cannabis will be available on prescription from the NHS from next Thursday, November 1, but experts say there is not enough evidence to support using it to treat pain conditions (stock image – CBD oil, pictured, is already legal)
‘We are concerned that in the interests of political expediency, this mandate to allow routine prescribing of cannabis for pain relief is premature.
‘That cannabis is an effective treatment for chronic pain is not supported by the evidence and may be associated with significant harm.’
The letter, signed by Dr Rajesh Munglani, a consultant in pain medicine who has a private practice in Cambridge and London, was sent to The Times.
It warned there is not enough evidence cannabis is effective at treating pain and it could put patients at risk of mental health problems.
But campaigners argue patients deserve the right to have medicinal cannabis as an option, as there is evidence in can combat pain.
Dr Munglani, who organised the letter, told The Times: ‘Patients are already demanding they are given medical cannabis.
‘People are coming in and saying, “I’m not interested in any other technique or drugs I just want the cannabis.”
‘We may end up becoming drug dealers inadvertently.’
The experts wrote political convenience in the face of public pressure appears to be one of the main reasons for the law change.
And they worry people may become addicted to cannabis-medicines in the same way the US is suffering an opioid crisis.
Although marijuana is not known for being physically addictive like cigarettes or heroin, it can cause dependency and problem use, experts say.
The doctors’ concerns were echoed by the national body the Faculty of Pain Medicine.
It said: ‘The widespread use of high-dose opioids… over the last 20 years is already the cause of considerable concern, and it is not difficult to see potential parallels.’
Campaign group End our Pain has accused doctors of a having a ‘cultural objection’ to the drug, and say patients have the right to have the option to use it.
A Government said: ‘Cannabis-based products for medicinal use will only be prescribed by specialist doctors where there is a clinical need which cannot be met by a licensed medicine.
‘We understand the concerns of doctors who, with patients and families, may be considering the use of medicines which have not demonstrated the standards for safety and efficacy we rightly expect in the UK.
‘Ultimately these are difficult decisions which can only be made by clinicians with patients.’
Cannabis oil has been illegal until now because it contains the chemical THC, which makes people high and affects the brain.
It is different to CBD oil, which is legal – and is sold on the high street – because it does not contain THC.
The Government had a change of heart after landmark cases in which children with epilepsy found their conditions were improved by the medicines.
Parents of those children – most famously Alfie Dingley and Billy Caldwell – were sourcing their children’s medicines from abroad.
THE LANDMARK CASE OF BILLY CALDWELL THAT PROMPTED THE GOVERNMENT TO CHANGE ITS STANCE ON MEDICINAL CANNABIS
Billy Caldwell’s mother Charlotte (pictured together) had seven bottles of cannabis oil confiscated at Heathrow Airport customs, prompting a row over cannabis oil
Cannabis oil was thrust into the limelight when epileptic boy Billy Caldwell’s mother had seven bottles confiscated at Heathrow Airport customs.
The 12-year-old sparked a row over the medicinal status of the oil, prompting the Home Office to step in and grant his mother Charlotte an emergency licence for his product that was calming his seizures, which contained THC.
Billy’s bottles were confiscated on June 11 after she brought them in from Toronto.
On the back of the cases of Billy and fellow epileptic boy Alfie Dingley, six, Home Secretary Sajid Javid called for a review into medicinal cannabis.
In a major shift of policy, he announced in July that some products containing the drug would be available on prescription in the UK from the autumn.
And earlier this week it was revealed cannabis-based products for medicinal use will only be available for specialist doctors – not GPs – to prescribe legally.
Officials have yet to confirm which medicines may be prescribed, but said they must be regulated as a medicinal product.