EducationHow to get a medical cannabis card for insomnia in the UK

How to get a medical cannabis card for insomnia in the UK

12 min read

Sam North

How to get a medical cannabis card for insomnia in the UK

In the UK, there is no legal requirement for patients to carry a medical cannabis card. But, here at Releaf, we are committed to working with and supporting authorities to identify legitimate medical cannabis use. We offer all our patients a handy medical cannabis card to help if they are stopped while carrying their legally prescribed medical cannabis products. 

Contents

On the 1st of November 2018, the UK government made overarching changes to the legality of cannabis in medical settings. On the back of decades of lobbying, and a mammoth shift in the social and political climate surrounding medical cannabis, the government made it legal for doctors on the GMC Specialist Register to prescribe medical cannabis.

The list of both mental and physical health conditions that now qualify patients for medical cannabis is quite exhaustive when prescribed through a private clinic. In fact, at the time of writing, almost any health issue or condition can now be treated with medical cannabis, although it is up to the discretion of a registered doctor and clinical team that has taken into account the patient, the clinical condition, the clinical evidence of efficacy and safety, and the suitability of licensed medicines.

Insomnia in brief

Insomnia is a poorly understood and debilitating condition where sufferers find it difficult to either fall asleep, stay asleep for long periods, or get good quality sleep in general.

While the underlying factors behind the condition are not yet fully understood, the symptoms and effects of insomnia can be incredibly impacting. For some people, the problem becomes such an issue that they seek medical help. The pharmaceutical options available are limited, with most advice stating that the vast majority of sleeping aids should not be taken for more than two weeks without a break.

Insomnia is broken up into two main categories -

  • Short-term insomnia — This type of insomnia is usually caused by heavy stress, anxiety, or environmental changes and lasts for a few days to a few weeks.
  • Chronic or long-term insomnia – Insomnia that lasts for more than three months and is not explained by another related health issue.

Understanding insomnia: The causes and symptoms

There is no true consensus on the exact causes of insomnia; however, it is accepted that both physical and mental health issues can contribute to its onset, as well as environmental factors. 

The symptoms of insomnia

Although the most common insomnia symptoms are simply the inability to fall asleep, stay asleep for long periods, or get good quality sleep, it can also cause several other related issues, including tiredness during the day, irritability, and headaches or migraines.

In more extreme cases, it may lead to depression, anxiety disorders, or even be a contributing factor towards physical health issues such as heart disease, obesity, or metabolic syndrome.

Understanding the triggers and risk factors

Some common insomnia triggers and contributing risk factors include:

  • chronic pain
  • poor sleeping habits
  • daytime naps
  • uncomfortable sleeping area
  • overly hot or cold bedrooms
  • excessive light or noise

Mental health conditions that can be triggers for insomnia include:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • stress
  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • bipolar disorder
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Physical issues can also play a role in the causes of sleeplessness, with certain medications and medical conditions having a direct impact on sleep patterns. These include:

  • allergies
  • arthritis
  • asthma
  • heart disease
  • chronic pain
  • thyroid disorders
  • pharmaceuticals that contain caffeine or other stimulants, and certain antidepressants, epilepsy, and steroid medications.

There are also lifestyle factors that can add to the likelihood of insomnia, such as:

  • jet-lag
  • working throughout the night
  • consuming caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol within around six hours before going to bed
  • watching TV or using your computer or smartphone in the last hour before sleep

How medical cannabis can improve sleep quality

Medical cannabis has been shown to be effective in treating a wide range of conditions and disorders, including insomnia. Cannabis contains components known as cannabinoids, which interact with the body's endocannabinoid system (ECS) and help regulate various bodily functions, including sleep patterns.

One of these cannabinoids is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which can have a sedative effect on the body, making it an ideal treatment for insomnia. Another cannabinoid, cannabidiol (CBD), has been shown to interact with serotonin receptors in the brain, promoting relaxation and reducing stress and anxiety levels – all key factors that can contribute to improved sleep quality. Terpenes are also found in cannabis and contribute to its sedative properties

Eligibility for UK medical cannabis: does insomnia qualify? 

Yes, it does.

Cannabis-based medical products can only be prescribed by specialist doctors here in the UK. The decision should be based on a proper assessment, clinical evidence of efficacy and safety, suitability of licensed medicines, and your unique health condition.

You will also need to try a range of conventional treatment options first before the specialist can consider prescribing medical cannabis.

In contrast to certain states of the US, it is not a legal requirement to hold a medical cannabis card in the UK to obtain prescriptions for medicinal cannabis. Nonetheless, some private clinics opt to offer their patients a card, offering added reassurance and an additional layer of safeguarding. Releaf is one such clinic.

Eligibility criteria for medical cannabis in the UK

As of 1 November 2018, licensed medical professionals in the UK have been able to prescribe cannabis-based products for medicinal use (CBPM) when they believe it is a necessary treatment option. For insomnia medical card eligibility, this means that your doctor will need to confirm and follow these steps:

  • Insomnia significantly impacts your daily life
  • You have tried other conventional treatments with no improvement or found them to be unsuitable
  • Other possible causes of your insomnia, such as mental health conditions, environmental factors, or medications, have been ruled out
  • The benefits of CBPMs outweigh the potential risks and side effects for your unique situation.

The UK's National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) provides further guidance on prescribing CBPMs for various conditions, including insomnia. This guidance is a tool for doctors to use when considering prescribing these types of medications.

Your step-by-step guide for medical cannabis cards for insomnia in the UK

Before we go any further, it is necessary to point out that medicinal cannabis is only available to those 18 years or older, and it must be prescribed by a specialist doctor who is registered with the General Medical Council Specialist Register. Most general practitioners are not qualified to prescribe medicinal cannabis.

Navigating the application process

Before you start the medical cannabis application process, you will need to collect a few things:

  • A copy of your passport ID page or driving licence.
  • A digital print of your most recent passport photo, or a mobile phone that can capture high-quality camera images.
  • A copy of your medical records from your GP, alongside any supporting documents from your clinical team, proving that you have been diagnosed with Insomnia.
  • Your National Health Service (NHS) number

Once you get in contact with a clinic that offers medical cannabis prescriptions, you will first be asked to provide the relevant documentation and complete a detailed eligibility questionnaire that includes your medical history, lifestyle, and current symptom severity.

Depending on which clinic you choose, you may be asked to visit in person for this first consultation, or you may be able to complete the entire process from the comfort of your own home.

If you meet the criteria for medical cannabis, the initial consultation will be followed by either an in-person meeting with a specialist or an online video consultation. During this consultation, the specialist will review the questionnaire results and ask about your current medication, medical history, and other relevant details to determine the best treatment plan.

If the doctor determines that prescribing medical cannabis is the most suitable option for you, they will provide a prescription with dosing guidelines. They may also offer guidance on how to access the medication.

Finally, you will receive your medical cannabis prescription, usually through the mail.

If you select Releaf as your private cannabis clinic, you will instantly receive a digital copy of your medical cannabis card and the physical copy will be shipped along with your first prescription. As holding a medical cannabis card for insomnia is not a legal requirement, not all private clinics will offer the added convenience of a card.

The benefits of holding a medical cannabis card for insomnia

There are a few key benefits that come with having a medical card for insomnia.

While it is not a legal requirement for UK medical cannabis patients to have or carry a medical cannabis card, we do provide all our patients with a card. This card is there to help clear up any issues if you are stopped by the authorities whilst carrying your legally prescribed medical cannabis.

If the authorities do stop and question you about your cannabis possession, you can show them your card to help prove it is for medicinal purposes. In the UK, all medical cannabis patients are legally required to carry their original prescription while in possession of their medical cannabis. The medical cannabis product must also be in its original packaging, with the prescription details printed on the side. The Releaf medical cannabis card is there as an extra level of protection.

Releaf provides each patient with a card that includes a secure QR code. This code is linked to their individual record in our password-protected database, eliminating the need to display sensitive information on the card itself. If a patient is ever questioned by a police officer or another official regarding their medical cannabis, they can present their card as part of the proof of their legal right to possess it. This approach ensures privacy and compliance with the law, offering peace of mind to our patients.

When the QR code is scanned, the card also outlines the relevant legislation as a quick reference point for police, and displays Releaf's dedicated phone line for authorities.

FAQs regarding medical cannabis and insomnia

What types of medical cannabis products are available for treating insomnia?

Medical cannabis products come in various forms, including oils, capsules, tinctures, sprays, and dried flower. Your prescribing doctor will determine which form and dosage is best suited to your specific needs.

Are there any side effects associated with medical cannabis use for insomnia?

As with any medication, there may be side effects associated with the use of medical cannabis for insomnia. These can include dry mouth, dizziness, changes in appetite, and mood swings. However, these side effects are generally mild and can often be managed by adjusting dosage or changing the strain of cannabis.

How long do I need to take medical cannabis before I will see improvements in my insomnia?

As with any medication or treatment plan, the rate at which improvements will be noticeable will vary from patient to patient. Your doctor will discuss a timeline with you based on your specific needs and may make adjustments as necessary.

Concluding thoughts: medical cannabis and insomnia treatment in the UK

Insomnia is a cruel, crippling condition that can have an enormous impact on the lives of sufferers and their loved ones. However, medicinal cannabis is increasingly becoming an accepted form of treatment for those suffering from insomnia, and it is possible to obtain a medical card for those who are eligible.

By following the process outlined in this article, you can ensure that your treatment is legitimate and of the highest quality. This allows you to focus on your health and well-being, without having to worry about the legal implications of possessing cannabis through illegal routes.

Releaf understands that embarking on your medical cannabis journey can be intimidating – that’s why we offer tailored monthly packages, specialist consultations for medical cannabis, and our unique medical cannabis card to give you the peace of mind that your treatment is protected, all based on your medical cannabis prescription.

Releaf - Removing the Stigma from Medical Cannabis

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

Sam North, a seasoned writer with over five years' experience and expertise in medicinal cannabis, brings clarity to complex concepts, focusing on education and informed use.

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.


Further reading

How to determine how much CBD to take for insomnia

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the most abundant cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. Lauded for its potential anti-inflammatory, anxiolytic and antioxidant effects, it has found great popularity around the world as a health supplement. While cannabis use is strictly regulated in the UK for the consumer market, the law states that CBD products are legal as long as they contain less than 0.2% of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) per dose or less than 1 mg per container. This ensures that users can enjoy the health benefits of medical cannabis without the psychoactive effects of THC.

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The potential benefits and risks of taking CBD for insomnia

Cannabidiol, otherwise referred to as CBD, is the second most prevalent cannabinoid that medical cannabis produces after THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), and the most dominant in hemp varieties. Over the past decade or so, CBD has become increasingly popular as a natural remedy for many health conditions, including insomnia.

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How to take medicinal cannabis for insomnia

We all have trouble sleeping from time to time. Restless nights are at least a semi-common occurrence for most people, but if you find yourself battling through weeks or months-long issues surrounding sleep, there may be more at play.

Sam North