A WOMAN believed to be the first UK patient to be prescribed medicinal cannabis has said NHS doctors need to do more to support the drug.

Former university lecturer Carly Barton, 32, who lives in Brighton, developed fibromyalgia, a condition which causes constant pain, after a stroke in her twenties.

But since the law changed last month, she has legally been prescribed cannabis to treat her symptoms.

Ms Barton said: “I was in constant pain all the time. Life was just awful because I couldn’t move, I couldn’t do anything. I tried so many different methods to help and cannabis has been the only thing that has worked with me and taken the pain away.”

Ms Barton said she was on opioids for six months to treat her “relentless pain”, but said they made her “zombie-like”.

She said: “The drugs I was on before were so much stronger than heroin off the street. It was not sustainable for me. You basically become a heroin addict.”

She was prescribed medicinal cannabis by Manchester-based private pain specialist Dr David McDowell after it was made legal for medicinal use last month. The three-month prescription will cost her around £2,500.

Despite success receiving a legal prescription, Ms Barton said: “Not every private practitioner is comfortable with prescribing cannabis for patients. I was lucky. NHS guidelines still advise against it and claim there is no evidence to suggest that it works for chronic pain. So there is no surprise NHS practitioners feel less inclined to advise using it.

“There needs to be a more flexible approach to the guidelines.”

Ms Barton, deputy director of patient advocacy group United Patients Alliance, said the change in legislation is “pointless” without a change in the guidelines.

She added: “At the moment, patients are being turned away. There are posters up in waiting rooms saying don’t even ask about it. There’s a complete and utter silent approach, people turning their backs and not wanting to discuss it, and that’s because specialists don’t have any information.”

Consultant Dr McDowell said the perceived lack of research into medicinal cannabis, as well as an ongoing stigma surrounding its use, discouraged doctors from prescribing the drug.

He said: “I don’t think anybody is going to say this is a magic wonder-drug, but I believe there is evidence this is beneficial. It is used quite widely in other parts of the world and there is increasing evidence of people being able to reduce their opioid consumption and maybe other drugs as well.”

Ms Barton says she can only afford the first prescription and faces weeks of waiting while a specialist obtains a licence to import the drug.

She said she hopes the NHS will renew her prescription or she faces “being a criminal” and buying her drugs on the black market.

“I’ve been on walking sticks in dark parks, meeting strangers on my own in the winter in agony, in horrible situations and that’s the reality of what’s happening to people who are medicating with cannabis for different conditions.

“We’ll be in a position where the rich are patients and the poor are criminals.”