More than 1000 people have asked Scotland’s first medical cannabis clinic for help in the three months since it opened.
Sapphire Medical Clinics, in Stirling, is the first surgery of its kind approved by regulators to offer patients safe access to medical cannabis.
It works with patients who have exhausted all other treatment options for diagnosed conditions causing chronic pain or anxiety.
‘Cannabis is my saviour’
Shonagh Soutar, 44, from Tayport, Fife, was one of the clinic’s first patients. She vapes cannabis-based medication to ease the symptoms of ME and Fibromyalgia.
“It’s instant relief for my health conditions,” said Shonagh, who’s suffered chronic pain for more than seven years.
“Cannabis is my saviour – my go to.”
Shonagh told STV News that before she could get prescribed cannabis-based medication through the clinic, she bought the drug illegally.
She said: “It made you feel like a criminal, having to look for it elsewhere.
“Now I feel like a massive weight has been lifted off my shoulders. It’s just what I’ve got to do to get a better quality of life.”
‘People are smiling for the first time in years’
NHS doctor Wendy Holden, who works with Sapphire Medical Clinics, said the products – in the shape of flowers, oils and capsules – had proven transformational for many patients.
She said: “Every single day of my NHS life, I see people with chronic pain and the NHS has very little to offer them, unfortunately, because conventional medicines are often not very effective.
“Being able to prescribe medical cannabis, I’ve just seen a completely different side to medicine really, and I’m seeing people with chronic pain who are smiling for the first time in years.”
Medical cannabis was legalised in 2018, but isn’t given out on the NHS, meaning patients need to be prescribed privately at a cost of around £130 per month.
Sapphire Medical Clinics told STV News it had been contacted by around 1200 people since it opened.
Regulatory body Healthcare Improvement Scotland said medical cannabis should only be prescribed to people with genuine conditions as a last resort.
“After careful consideration and assessment of their application, Healthcare Improvement Scotland has registered Sapphire Medical as an independent clinic,” it said in a statement.
“Our registration process is stringent and there are strict requirements which clinics must meet in order to complete the process.
“When a clinic is registered with Healthcare Improvement Scotland, it is also then subject to regular inspection, which helps to reassure the public that they are maintaining high standards of care.”