Grandmother Phil Schwarz is a not woman to be messed with. When she found out that CBD might help with her painful rheumatoid arthritis, she wanted answers and she was determined to get them.
Born in Scotland to Irish parents, Phil’s always been on the spirited side. At 82 years old, the only thing that gives away her age is the rheumatoid arthritis that she’s had since her forties.
‘Recently the pain had been about a 7/10,’ she explains. ‘It impacted on my life drastically and I was very, very tired, but when you’re in constant pain you are very, very tired’.
Phil’s symptoms have been managed by a cocktail of drugs, like the immunosuppressant Methotrexate, plus prescription painkillers. ‘I went through several different hospital procedures that were the direct results of the side effects of painkillers. I was taking so many painkillers, it was creating chronic constipation. The National Health Service’s answer to that was to check for bowel cancer every time. So I had cameras put up me, put down me, it was ridiculous and it was all because of those painkillers’.
A member of Phil’s close family had spoken to her about CBD or ‘cannabis with the fun bit taken out’, as Phil calls it, and how it might help with the pain she’d been suffering for so many years.
‘I’m under the care of professionals here and my rheumatologist has improved my condition tremendously over the last twelve years. I didn’t want to go behind her back and take something without telling her’.
So on Phil’s next six monthly check up she asked what her rheumatologist thought about CBD. At first her consultant was quite dismissive of the idea.
But Phil wasn’t easily put off. ‘I’ve known this lady for 12 years so I feel like I can tell her like it is. So I said to her, “you’re not taking me seriously are you?” And I said, “well I’m taking it seriously and I’d appreciate it if you’d do the same”’.
Persuaded by Phil’s persistence, her consultant proceeded to look up Cannabidiol, the non psychoactive part of cannabis, on her computer.
‘She was sitting there,’ continues Phil, ‘with a look on her face that was saying “Oh yeah, I’ll humour this woman”. She keyed it in and she was there looking at the screen. And then the expression on her face changed and she kind of leaned forward in her seat, concentrating. The body language was amazing”.
Based on what she’d found online during this quick search, Phil’s rheumatologist agreed to get the pharmaceutical department to look into whether CBD would be safe for her to take, and if it could help with her rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.
Two weeks later, an unofficial answer came back, which to Phil’s surprise said, ‘that it certainly wouldn’t do me any harm, might even do me some good and it wouldn’t interfere with my medication’.
This was good enough for Phil, who soon after she began taking two 15% raw hemp oil drops, three times a day.
‘So the first time I took some was at night time before I went to sleep. The next day I was out of bed like a spring chicken and I’ve been pain free ever since’.
Phil has been taking CBD drops for three weeks now and feels like she’s been given a new lease of life. ‘I’ve just been out and I’ve walked about ¾ of a mile,’ she says, ‘before I couldn’t do about a hundred yards. It’s like a miracle worker, and I don’t care if it’s in my head or in a bottle, whatever it is, it’s doing it’.
Phil was so thrilled she asked her rheumatology nurse if she could cut back her medication. ‘She told me not to change the medication but what she did say was that if it really was as good as I was saying, then I should tell other patients about it’.
But in a month’s time recommending CBD to other patients won’t be so easy, following a recently announced decision by the Medical Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to reclassify CBD as medicine.
Until recently CBD could be purchased and consumed as a dietary supplement and was regulated as such. With this reclassification, all UK suppliers and producers must obtain an expensive license, plus CBD itself will have to proceed through the same rigorous clinical trial processes that other medicines go through.
The result being that within the month, CBD products will no longer be legally available to UK residents. According to Peter Reynolds from CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform, ‘for people who have been legitimately using CBD as a food supplement they’re going to have their supplies cut off which will have catastrophic health consequences. So where you can criticise the MHRA is for failure to anything in the form of consultation or making interim measures for people who are relying on CBD because they have been using it for some time’.
Many people who have been using CBD for their health condition will inevitably turn to buying online from overseas, but even this would technically be considered breaking the law as they would be importing unlicensed medicine.
Unsurprisingly, feisty Phil is undeterred by the thought of acting illegally. ‘I’m going to do whatever it takes to continue using it. Now that I’ve found it, I’m not going to give it up. As far as I’m concerned, I’m 82 years of age, what the hell can they do to me? So if I have to break a few rules, I’m quite prepared to break them’.