ResearchResearch into attitudes towards medicinal cannabis in the UK: June 2023

Research into attitudes towards medicinal cannabis in the UK: June 2023

6 min read

Lucy MacKinnon

Research into attitudes towards medicinal cannabis in the UK: June 2023

Contents

Say no to pain report

Research into attitudes towards medicinal cannabis in the UK: June 2023

In April 2023 we commissioned the largest-ever nationally representative medical cannabis survey in the UK. Using the data provided by 4,210 UK adults we’ve been able to shine a light on the incredibly large proportion of potential medical cannabis patients in the UK, explore the lack of awareness, education, and access to medical cannabis, and expose the widespread societal stigmas that influence the UK’s public perception of cannabis.

Here you can find a detailed summary of our key findings that highlight not only what the British public believes about cannabis, but how medical cannabis has the potential to benefit Britain.

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46% of UK adults with a condition treatable with medical cannabis live with significant discomfort.

After uncovering that every other person in the UK may be eligible for medical cannabis treatments, we wanted to understand how these treatments could potentially make a daily difference for those who need it the most. 

We discovered that there is a long list of challenging health conditions that influence a patient's day-to-day activities, hindering their abilities to work or study and negatively influencing their personal lives and stress levels. This includes diagnoses of chronic pain, menstrual cramps, appetite disorders, depression, fibromyalgia, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, PTSD, ADHD and anxiety. 

45.6% of respondents living with at least one condition that could be suitable for medical cannabis treatment reported that they were living with significant distress and discomfort, and 34.9% said the condition affects the quality of their family or personal life too. 

Just under a third, or 32.83%, of these respondents reported that their health had affected their ability to work and or study, and over a quarter expressed that their health condition had made them concerned or worried about their future. 

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Less than 1% of potentially eligible patients are believed to have successfully secured a prescription for medical cannabis in the UK.

Although over half of the population in the UK may be eligible for medical cannabis treatments, only 0.48% of our sample, or 2 respondents, were in receipt of an active medical cannabis prescription

When equated to the entire UK population, this would suggest that only 283,200, or less than 1% of the possible 29.6 million eligible patients, currently receive medical cannabis treatments. 

However, our report also demonstrates that there is a clear interest in cannabis-based treatment options as over 70% of those with eligible conditions said that they would consider medical cannabis if it had been recommended by their doctor or a specialist, and as an average 15.74% had already discussed this option with a healthcare professional. 

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16.5 million UK adults still believe that medical cannabis is illegal - it's been legal since 2018.

Only 41.5% of those we surveyed were aware that medical cannabis can be legally prescribed by specialist doctors, whilst a staggering 34.77% still believed that medical cannabis was illegal, despite its legalisation almost five years ago.

This would suggest that approximately 16.5 million UK adults still believe that medical cannabis is illegal, indicating significant confusion and a lack of awareness surrounding the legal status of medical cannabis amongst the UK population. 

Although the population seems divided in regard to the legality of medical cannabis, in this study the therapeutic benefits of this powerful plant were well-recognised by the majority.  83.71% of respondents admitted they were aware that medical cannabis can be consumed to relieve a range of symptoms associated with certain health conditions, whilst only 16.29% said they were unaware of these benefits. 

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1 in 4 UK adults would worry about being questioned by the police when using prescribed medical cannabis.

As well as gaining insight into public perception of the benefits and legality of medical cannabis, the Releaf: Say no to pain report explores the influence of societal stigmas and public pressures on prospective medical cannabis consumers. 

Our data demonstrates that two of the major motivators that would discourage potential patients from consuming medical cannabis relate to the fear of being stigmatised by the authorities or perceived as committing a crime. 

Just under a quarter (24.35%) or almost 1 in 4 of those that we surveyed revealed they would be concerned about being questioned by the police if they were consuming medical cannabis, and over a third (34.16%) said they would be worried about being mistaken for acting illegally. 

These findings strengthen the need for the implementation and availability of cannabis-based educational courses in both public and professional sectors to help remove the stigma associated with medical cannabis.  

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1 in 4 UK adults have used cannabis for medicinal purposes without a prescription.

Although over 40% of the respondents we surveyed were aware that medical cannabis can be legally prescribed in the UK, around 1 in 4 revealed that they had consumed cannabis for a medicinal reason without a prescription. 

17.08% of those who had consumed non-prescription cannabis stated their motivations for doing so were to treat their low mood, whilst 16.58% reported that they had consumed non-prescription cannabis to treat a specific medical condition and 13.59% said they had done so to ease their pain. 

When asked if they felt cannabis was a beneficial treatment option in helping them manage these needs, 84.8% of those in the ‘low mood group’, 88.55% of the ‘medical condition’ group and 83.82% of the ‘pain’ group said that they felt cannabis was an effective treatment option for these conditions.

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29.6 million UK adults have a medical condition which can be treated with medical cannabis.

Using the data from our sample of 4,210 adults in the UK, it is estimated that 50.2% of the population, or 29.6 million UK adults, have been diagnosed with at least one medical condition that may make them eligible for medical cannabis-based treatments. 

Alongside this staggering figure, 6.83% of our survey sample reported that they believe they are living with one of these treatable conditions but they have not yet been formally diagnosed, which equates to a further 4.03 million people in the UK. 

Almost 20% of the respondents that took part in this survey have been officially diagnosed with anxiety, which was the most prevalent condition in our sample that may be suitable for cannabis-based treatments. 

This was followed by almost 14% with a diagnosis of depression, almost 7% with a diagnosis relating to migraines or osteoarthritis, and over 5% who had been diagnosed with gut health diseases or chronic pain - all of which can be suitable conditions for cannabis-based treatments. 

Conclusion

The findings from this in-depth report explicitly demonstrate the importance of educating the public about medical cannabis and suggests that a lack of awareness and understanding could potentially prevent millions from accessing medical treatment options that could therapeutically benefit them. 

Releaf understands that embarking on your medical cannabis journey can be overwhelming, and even slightly 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.

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.

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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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