How do I approach my doctor for a referral?
Many patients find themselves wanting to ask their doctor about medical cannabis as medicine, however, they can sometimes find that talking with their doctor about medical cannabis can be a nerve-wracking experience.
A little preparation can provide confidence when approaching one’s general practitioner (GP). Keep reading to find out our recommendations on approaching your GP about a medical cannabis referral or treatment plan and what you might be able to do if your doctor refuses.
Requesting a medical cannabis treatment plan
Nurse Doni’s Quick Tips
Nurse Doni’s quick tips for approaching your regular doctor for a medical cannabis treatment plan include:
- Start by doing a little research to explain how you think medical cannabis would help you
- Discuss the potential benefits and implications of medical cannabis as a therapy choice
- Note your expectations of medical cannabis therapy
- Ask your doctor about the formulation of an appropriate treatment plan
- Understand the cost of treatment
- Set achievable and realistic health goals
Requesting a medical cannabis referral
If your doctor isn’t confident or comfortable in developing a plant-based treatment plan for you, you can request a referral to CDA Clinics. First thing first, provide your GP with a copy of our CDA Clinics Letter to Referring Doctors.
This document can be found in the information pack that patients receive when they first enquire on our website. The document is attached to the email as a PDF that you can print out and take to your regular doctor. It explains the duty of care your doctor has to provide you with a referral to any health specialists or services that you would like to try for your condition/s. Please ensure that you do this as a first step.
Require an initial medicinal cannabis Information Pack?
Some important points that you can tell your doctor:
- CDA Clinics doctors are highly experienced in medical cannabis treatments and, much like visiting any specialist (oncologist, cardiologist, Endocrinologists or other), a referral is required
- Your referring doctor is not endorsing medicinal cannabis, simply validating your symptoms
Your doctor’s reservations may include:
They may lose you as a patient.
- Reassure them that you’ll remain a patient of theirs and CDA doctors will collaborate results with your doctor. Some doctors such as bulk billing doctors can only make a living with a high-volume of consults.
Perhaps you just want to get high.
- Assure them that you want CBD, which is a non-psychoactive treatment. If they’re not aware that some medical cannabis medicine is completely non-psychoactive and non-toxic, direct them to the CanView Confident Prescriber Course – a free educational resource to help them understand that medicinal cannabis treatment is about getting healthy, not high.
They’re concerned with your current prescription medicines.
- Our doctors are highly experienced and always work with a patient’s current treatments, symptoms and consult only upon receiving a valid health summary.
- This is why it’s important for your doctor to provide a relevant health summary which should include any past and current medications and other treatments that you are trying for your symptoms/condition.
Some doctors are telling their patients that accessing medical cannabis is difficult and that it’s prohibitively expensive.
- We can assure you that it’s not difficult for eligible patients to access medical cannabis consultations and medications through the approved government pathways. As long as you have a chronic condition lasting three months or more (you can prove this with your health summary) and you’re over the age of 18.
- The cost of the consultations and average product cost is on our website. Whether you can afford this or not is your prerogative and has nothing to do with your doctor.
What if my doctor refuses?
If your doctor refuses to provide you with a referral, request a medical clinic reception for your medical history and take that to another doctor. Another option is to tell your doctor that you just want to try CBD oil, which is non-psychoactive and completely legal to drive on. Additionally, GP’s collaborate on treatment plans and they should be informed of any new supplements or medication commenced. A medical cannabis clinician has insight on possible medication interactions and, in conjunction with a patients GP, can help monitor for safety and efficacy of the medicine.
What else can you do?
- You can go back to your doctor and present them with some research. Research can be found on our website here.
- Give our details to your doctor so that he/she can contact us directly.
- If all else fails, provide us with the contact details of your doctor and we may be able to contact them. Please include your doctor’s name, practice name, email and telephone number
- Contact your practice and request your full medical history (preferably emailed to you as it can be a large document). Move to another doctor who will refer you for a medical cannabis consultation.
Whether healthcare professionals are for, neutral or against medical cannabis, it’s important that they remember they have a duty of care for their patients and need to consider all viable treatments. Patients should feel comfortable when seeking support from their doctor to guide them along their health care journey.Learn more about medical cannabis therapies and consultations by registering as a patient or taking our no-cost eligibility screening.
Disclaimer: This is not an inducement to use Medicinal Cannabis. Medical Cannabis doesn’t work for everyone, and it may not work for you. How Cannabis affects a person depends on many things, including their size, weight, age and health, dosage and tolerance and the results can vary. Some people may experience side effects when taking Cannabinoid medication.
The information provided by CDA Clinics is for educational and informational purposes only. For Medical advice, please check with your doctor and request a referral.
Medical cannabis (and cannabis oils)
Many cannabis-based products are available to buy online, but their quality and content is not known. They may be illegal in the UK and potentially dangerous.
Some products that might claim to be medical cannabis, such as CBD oil or hemp oil, are available to buy legally as food supplements from health stores. But there’s no guarantee these are of good quality or provide any health benefits.
Specific cannabis-based products are available on prescription as medicinal cannabis. These are only likely to benefit a very small number of patients.
Can I get a prescription for medical cannabis?
Very few people in England are likely to get a prescription for medical cannabis.
Currently, it is only likely to be prescribed for the following conditions:
- children and adults with rare, severe forms of epilepsy
- adults with vomiting or nausea caused by chemotherapy
- people with muscle stiffness and spasms caused by multiple sclerosis (MS)
It would only be considered when other treatments were not suitable or had not helped.
Epidyolex for children and adults with epilepsy
Epidyolex is a highly purified liquid containing CBD (cannabidiol).
CBD is a chemical substance found in cannabis that has medical benefits.
It will not get you high, because it does not contain THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the chemical in cannabis that makes you high.
Epidyolex can be prescribed by a specialist for patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome (both rare forms of epilepsy).
Nabilone for chemotherapy patients
Many people having chemotherapy will have periods where they feel sick or vomit.
Nabilone can be prescribed to adults by a specialist to help relieve these symptoms, but only when other treatments have not helped or are not suitable.
Nabilone is a medicine, taken as a capsule, that has been developed to act in a similar way to THC (the chemical in cannabis that makes you high). You may have heard it described as a “manmade form of cannabis”.
Nabiximols (Sativex) for multiple sclerosis (MS)
Nabiximols (Sativex) is a cannabis-based medicine that is sprayed into the mouth.
It is licensed in the UK for adults with MS-related muscle spasticity that has not got better with other treatments.
There is some evidence medical cannabis can help certain types of pain, though this evidence is not yet strong enough to recommend it for pain relief.
In some cases, however, it may be prescribed for pain as part of a clinical trial.
What about products available to buy?
Some cannabis-based products are available to buy over the internet without a prescription.
It’s likely most of these products – even those called CBD oils – will be illegal to possess or supply. There’s a good chance they will contain THC, and may not be safe to use.
Health stores sell certain types of pure CBD. However, there’s no guarantee these products will be of good quality.
They tend to only contain very small amounts of CBD, so it’s not clear what effect they would have.
Is medical cannabis safe?
The risks of using cannabis products containing THC (the chemical that gets you high) are not currently clear. That’s why clinical trials are needed before they can be used. “Pure” products that only contain CBD, such as Epidyolex, do not carry these unknown risks linked with THC.
But in reality, most products will contain a certain amount of THC.
The main risks of THC cannabis products are:
- psychosis – there is evidence that regular cannabis use increases your risk of developing a psychotic illness such as schizophrenia
- dependency on the medicine – although scientists believe this risk is probably small when its use is controlled and monitored by a specialist doctor
Generally, the more THC the product contains, the greater these risks are.
Cannabis bought illegally off the street, where the quality, ingredients and strength are not known, is the most dangerous form to use.
What are the side effects?
Depending on the type of medical cannabis you take, it’s possible to develop side effects such as:
- decreased appetite
- feeling sick
- a behavioural or mood change
- feeling very tired
- feeling high
- suicidal thoughts
If you experience any side effects from medical cannabis, report these to your medical team. You can also report them through the Yellow Card Scheme.
CBD and THC can affect how other medicines work. Always discuss possible interactions with a specialist.
CBD can also affect how your liver works, so doctors would need to monitor you regularly.
How do I get a prescription?
You cannot get cannabis-based medicine from a GP – it can only be prescribed by a specialist hospital doctor.
And it is only likely to be prescribed for a small number of patients.
A hospital specialist might consider prescribing medical cannabis:
- for epilepsy – if you (or your child) have one of the rare forms of epilepsy that might be helped by medical cannabis
- for MS – if you have spasticity from MS and other treatments for this are not helping
- for chemotherapy – if you are vomiting or feeling sick from chemotherapy and other anti-sickness treatments are not helping
The specialist will discuss with you all the other treatment options first, before considering a cannabis-based product.
A prescription for medical cannabis would only be given when it was believed to be in your best interests, and when other treatments had not worked or were not suitable.
It’s expected this would only apply to a very small number of people in England.
If the above does not apply to you, do not ask a GP for a referral for medical cannabis.
Will the laws on cannabis be relaxed?
The government has no intention of legalising the use of cannabis for recreational (non-medical) use.
Possessing cannabis is illegal, whatever you’re using it for. That includes medical use cannabis products, unless these have been prescribed for you.