BlogIntroducing Releaf’s Brand Ambassador: An interview with Dr Charlie Easmon

Introducing Releaf’s Brand Ambassador: An interview with Dr Charlie Easmon

8 min read

Lucy MacKinnon

Dr Charlie Easmon
Dr Charlie Easmon is a highly acclaimed international health expert, who has ventured through over 75 countries, observing and evaluating local medical facilities for the last four decades.

Contents

Dr Charlie Easmon's dedication to enhancing medical practices is evident in his work. From setting up a safe refugee camp for over 12,000 people in Rwanda to working with organisations like Save the Children, Dr Easmon has always remained passionate about exploring, improving, and developing different forms of medicine. 

Now the host of the incredible podcast Not Your Usual Doctor, and Medical Director of Your Excellence Health Service, Dr Charlie Easmon has decided to delve into the world of medical cannabis, and in the process has become one of our brilliant Brand Ambassadors. 

So, we sat down with the down-to-earth doctor for a candid conversation, to learn more about his interest in medical cannabis and get his advice for future patients and aspiring doctors in the UK. 

So, Dr Charlie, you qualified over 40 years ago in Tropical Medicine and have since become highly accredited and accomplished within the medical field. But, when would you say your interest in medical cannabis began?

"I think it first began just over 10 years ago. Through various contacts, I got introduced to the concepts of medical use of cannabis and started doing some research on it. I was particularly intrigued when I found out about the endocannabinoid system, which we really didn't get taught anything about at medical school.

The fact that we have an inherent cannabis receptor system in our bodies that's linked to our hormones, I think that's really just incredible. And the fact that the Rastafarians were aware of this for years, and they always talked about how the human is integrated with the plant, I think shows they were way ahead of their time.

However, unfortunately, the nature of medical hierarchies is that they do become restrictive. These hierarchies determine what is allowed and what's not allowed, and in the category of what's not allowed, there are often some really beneficial substances, but substances that have been demonised." 

Now that medical cannabis is legalised in the UK, do you think this demonisation in medical circles is decreasing?

"Ultimately yes I do think demonisation is decreasing. But unfortunately, shifting existing culture is a really long task; it can be done, but it requires shifting vested interests. Say, for example, the head of chemistry has made his or her reputation on what they currently know and want to promote, altering their thought pattern and motivations is not going to be an easy thing to do.

Post-Harold Shipman and his heinous crimes, as doctors we are now under more regulatory supervision, and rightfully so. Now, we are also encouraged to keep our personal development going and attend more lectures or gather useful information, but the other thing that has changed, is that drug companies effectively used to really bribe us, to run with whatever they wanted.

Now there have been these shifts, and there is much less pharmaceutical bribery going on and there's more pressure to keep your professional status up to date. So I think we're all inclined to learn and to keep engaging, and we're encouraged to do so. Since the legalisation of medical cannabis, I think it's crucial to step away from the stigmatisation, and further the scientific evidence surrounding this subject."

On this, how do you think the existing evidence base for cannabis based treatments could be improved, or expanded?

"If we conduct randomised controlled trials that are medically gold standard, generally, we get an idea of what will work overall and with whom. But the problem that we don't take into account is all our trials are usually on fit, young, white males. And so, there is a huge element of what we do and say in science that ignores the fact that there's this huge diversity of people that the medication hasn't even been tried on. I think it is important that this is rectified.

We need to ensure that trials both for conventional medicines and medical cannabis include a wider demographic." 

Do you think it's important for doctors and patients to be aware of cannabis-based treatments?

"Yes, I’ve realised that our traditional models of medicine fit a very specific paradigm of illness and belief. We are not particularly very good at helping people with chronic illnesses and chronic diseases, whether that be pain, certain types of cancer, certain types of autoimmune diseases, or so on. Just throwing traditional drugs at them doesn't solve all of their problems, clearly. And so, I’ve always been eager to explore the alternatives.

I think one of the major problems for patients in general is that their interaction with medicine is very brief. They receive maybe a 30 or 60 minute consultation, but they're living with disease 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and so there becomes an interest in the wider aspects of what is healing, and what is helpful to people. And I think people know their own bodies best. 

There's a very interesting Dutch psychiatrist called Bessel van der Kolk who said, I realise it's not my job to question what has worked. I've just got to accept that it works for them. That's now my approach, some of the things that help people aren't always the answers that I could predict, but if it doesn't harm them, and it benefits them, they should stick with it. I think this is also true in the case of medical cannabis."

So it seems Doctors are inclined to learn about cannabis based treatments, but how can we help to get more information out there?

"The current generation, if they're motivated, could use the internet to learn beyond the restricted curricula they'll learn in medical school. Medical textbooks, by definition, are at least 10 years old by the time they’re studied, and so the data in them is not modern data. I suspect medical cannabis wouldn't be part of the current curriculum because of this outdated nature the medical curriculum can have, but I wouldn’t know for certain because I qualified back in ‘84. 

I think podcasts and other forms of medical information using social media are ingenious. Those are, I suppose, some of the newer ways of getting these messages across. But I even think there is plenty of potential to do initially, maybe, a weekend masterclass in additional medical cannabis information that should be relevant to aspiring doctors, for example.

Another way is through organised groups. In Harley Street, where I work, there's an independent doctor’s federation that holds regular talks, conferences, and meetings. Inserting some cannabis-based information into that existing group could work, and I believe there are some really great ways to expand awareness and knowledge that could be effective for this particular group of people."

This all sounds promising, but ultimately, how do you think we can improve the numbers of doctors actively involved in medical cannabis in the UK? 

"I think the sphere of knowledge around cannabis and endocannabinoids is still not great. So, there is a need to promote knowledge in that direction because I think a lot of us would otherwise still remain ignorant about it.

When the government authorised the use of medical cannabis, they put a structure in place, so only those registered on the GMC’s Specialist Register can prescribe these medicines. I personally think it's an over rigorous structure, but that's what governments do initially. When they introduce things that they didn't want to do before, the government will always put higher barriers to entry.

I was really pleased to hear about the Early Day Motion earlier this year, that is asking the government to open up these prescribing rights up to GPs. I also think any sensible young physician who's a member of the Royal College of Physicians, or has a qualification in occupational health for example, should be allowed to prescribe this medication under supervision. They shouldn’t be hindered from helping, just because they’re not on the specialist register."

And finally, what advice would you give to patients considering cannabis-based treatments?

"I've never set myself up as somebody that you could see for an alternative view around your health, but I have been very interested in understanding that. Ultimately, I am a great fan of expanding the opportunities for people to access these therapies, and so I’m very pleased that organisations like Releaf exist.

In terms of advice, I think the sensible thing to do is speak with the experts at an established medical cannabis clinic like Releaf. They have made the effort to look at all the regulatory processes, made the effort to ensure that their products are reliable and meet all the high standards that you'd expect.

One of the most important aspects about Releaf that I personally think is excellent, is that patients are able to build and maintain a trusting relationship with their team of clinicians. Every aspect of their experience with Releaf is patient-focused, with their best interests at heart, which is how healthcare should be."

It is important to seek medical advice before starting any new treatments. The patient advisors at Releaf are available to provide expert advice and support. Alternatively, click here to book a consultation with one of our specialist doctors.

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Authors

With five years of journalism and healthcare content creation under her belt, Lucy strives to improve medical cannabis awareness and access in the UK by producing high quality, credible content.

Our articles are written by experts and reviewed by medical professionals or compliance specialists. Adhering to stringent sourcing guidelines, we reference peer-reviewed studies and scholarly research. View our editorial policy.

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