Thursday, November 2, 2000
By Kirsty Jones
More than half of GPs think laws on cannabis are too strict and a third say the drug should be legalised.
Eighty per cent said they would give cannabis to patients with serious illnesses - such as multiple sclerosis or cancer - if it was legally available on prescription.
When asked which was the least addictive substance out of tobacco, alcohol, prescribed drugs and illegal drugs, a quarter of doctors questioned said cannabis.
Another 44 per cent said cannabis triggered fewer health problems than other drugs, although half had met people who had smoked pot before moving on to harder drugs.
However, they raised questions about the effects of cannabis on a person's ability to drive, the lack of reliable scientific research and the links between the drug and cancer.
Many people with MS, cancer and other illnesses say cannabis alleviates pain and helps them to cope with their condition.
In the survey of 1,000 GPs by medical website Medix UK (http://www.medix-uk.com/), one in five said they would consider prescribing cannabis for minor pain such as backache and 16 per cent would think about using it as an alternative to traditional anti-depressants.
Campaigners for legalisation and the British Medical Association welcomed the findings.
A 1997 BMA report said cannabis could alleviate symptoms of illnesses like MS where other conventional medicines had little effect.
Two clinical trials are under way into the medical benefits of cannabis compounds.
A BMA spokeswoman said: 'There are a number of patients who find that cannabis relieves their symptoms in a way that other drugs and painkillers do not.'
Drug that eases my pain
Multiple sclerosis victim Clare Hodges regularly smokes cannabis to alleviate her symptoms.
The 43-year-old from Leeds has helped to run pressure group Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics for the past eight years. She said: 'This survey confirms that doctors are very supportive of thousands of patients who are using cannabis to treat themselves.'
'Doctors are now sitting up and taking note, and seeing for themselves that cannabis can be therapeutic.'