The NHS & CBD Oil in the UK: Prescription, Risks, Products

CBD has gained popularity as more people use it to relieve conditions like anxiety, insomnia, pain, and more. 

But what does the NHS say about using CBD products

Short answer:

CBD oil cannot be medically prescribed — so you won’t get an NHS prescription.

Why doesn’t the NHS recommend it? 

What about its affiliated institutes?

Let’s discuss everything you should know about CBD oil and the NHS. 

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Important: The Food Standards Agency advises those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking any medication against consuming cannabinoid-containing products.

CBD Oil: NHS Stance

Made from the cannabis plant, CBD oil contains CBD (cannabidiol) mixed with a carrier oil like coconut oil. 

People use it for CBD’s therapeutic benefits, like better sleep, pain relief, and anti-anxiety effects. 

However, the medical community may have some different opinions.

Let’s explore where the NHS and its affiliated institutes stand regarding CBD oils and cannabis based medicine. 

Here are the NHS-affiliated organisations we looked into for this article: 

  • NHS
  • NHS England
  • NHS Scotland
  • NHS Shetland, Scotland
  • NHS Wales 
  • NHS Northern Ireland
  • NHS Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group
  • NHS Specialist Pharmacy Service

They all have a similar stance regarding CBD oil. 

Ready to find out what they say?

1. CBD oil

The NHS considers any cannabis based product available to the UK public potentially dangerous since their quality and contents aren’t known. 

Why’s that? 

The UK’s CBD industry is largely unregulated. 

Cannabis oil and other products bought online or in health stores may not meet appropriate manufacturing standards. 

The NHS believes the contents of these CBD products cannot be guaranteed and may contain harmful impurities. 

What’s more?

The NHS doesn’t recommend cannabis oil for medical treatment as cannabinoids may reduce the effects or aggravate the side effects of existing treatment. 

However, the Dorset Formulary realises more research is needed to determine the impact and risks of CBD products. 

Bottom line?

Currently, CBD oils aren’t available for medicinal use and cannot be administered in a hospital. 

Exciting news: Project twenty21, in association with Drug science, is a prominent medical cannabis research project in the UK. Drug science aims to gather data on the efficiency of cannabis-based medicines through this project.

Now you might be wondering…

Can I use CBD oils as health supplements?

The Dorset Formulary recommends informing your doctor about these products since they may interfere with certain medicines.

The Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) for Children in Bloomsbury, England, has the same stance about CBD oils.


Cannabinoid oils may contain THC in varying strengths — sometimes different from what the product label says. This can make the product unsafe, especially for children.

But GOSH values open discussions with parents and social care workers about CBD usage since they may be curious about trying out alternatives for their children. 

Read More: Learn about CBD and THC, like their differences, effects, and legality. 

2. CBPM (Cannabis-based products for medicinal use)

Medicinal cannabis is not the same as a cannabis based product you can purchase on the general market. 

Cannabis treatment is specifically for medicinal use and requires a prescription from a hospital specialist (it cannot be issued by a private prescription). 

According to NHS, a product can be classified as a cannabis-based product for medicinal use if it meets the following requirements: 

  • It should contain cannabis, cannabis resin, cannabinol, or a cannabinol derivative (making it a Class B drug according to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971).
  • The product should be made for medicinal use in humans.
  • It should be regulated as a medicinal cannabis product or handled as an ingredient of a medicinal product.

Only a few medical cannabis products are approved for medicinal use in the UK. 

They are:

  • Nabilone (Chemotherapy): Nabilone is a capsule—prescribed to adults with cancer— that acts similarly to THC. It works on specific centres in your brain to relieve nausea and vomiting associated with ongoing chemotherapy.  
  • Nabiximols (Multiple Sclerosis): Nabiximols (Sativex) is a cannabis-based medicine in the form of an oral CBD spray. It is available in the UK for adults with muscle spasticity related to multiple sclerosis, which has not improved with other treatments. 
  • Epidyolex (Epilepsy): Epidyolex (or Epidiolex) is a purified liquid that contains CBD. A specialist doctor may prescribe Epidyolex for a patient — adults or epileptic children — with rare forms of epilepsy like Lennox Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.
Interesting fact: The Sapphire Clinic did a clinical trial to show how medical cannabis use can help treat chronic pain. The evidence-based findings can contribute to cancer research as they look into cancer and non-cancer-related pain.   

Alongside the NHS is the National Institute for Health Care and Excellence

It offers what they call ‘NICE guidance to parents, social care workers or even people taking cannabis based medicine. They provide evidence-based recommendations and cover chronic pain, nausea, spasticity, and severe treatment resistant epilepsy. 

Note: The NHS Shetland believes there’s not enough evidence for prescribing CBPM to those suffering from chronic pain. 

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3. Getting a prescription for CBPM

Not everyone can get a prescription for cannabis based medicinal products. 

Only some people are likely to get one for these controlled drugs after other treatments are deemed unsuitable or have not helped.

People who are likely to get a prescription for cannabis based medicinal products are:

  • Epileptic children (usually above 2 years of age) and adults with severe treatment resistant epilepsy like (Lennox Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome) 
  • Adults with cancer experiencing vomiting or nausea because of chemotherapy 
  • Those with MS-associated muscle stiffness (spasticity) and spasms 

Once a patient reaches a certain point in their treatment, they’ll need a referral from their GP (general practitioner) to a specialist doctor for a prescription of CBPM. 


The UK law requires medical cannabis products be supplied only under the prescription or direction of a clinician on the Special Register of the General Medical Council.

Usually, patients can only access unlicensed medicines like CBPM if the specialist doctor considers it clinically appropriate for them.

So how do you obtain CBPM?

There are three routes. 

You can access these drugs if they are:

  • A medicine with a marketing authorisation; 
  • A part of a clinical trial; or
  • A “special” medicine supplied through existing Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) licensed routes. 
Note: The Care Quality Commission regulates the NHS and has found that NICE guidance and information from NHS England calls for more research on cannabis treatment. 

The Care Quality Commission also notes that patients can get an NHS prescription for cannabis as a medicinal product

4. Legal aspects

GOSH NHS mentions that in the UK, cannabis products with more than 1mg THC are considered illegal.


Those products with more than 1mg THC that have been authorised by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA). 

And for the MHRA to authorise these products, they need to accurately demonstrate safety in well-designed, randomised studies against a dummy or gold-standard therapy. They also need to meet strict pharmaceutical standards for quality. 

What happens if they don’t meet these standards? 

Put simply; they cannot be classified as CBPM.  

But if they contain 0.0% THC, they can still be legally sold as CBD health food supplements or as beauty products. 

And as such, health stores should NOT sell them under the pretence of having curative or medicinal effects.  

Read More: Cannabis use (smoking marijuana) is still illegal in the UK. Use our informative article to discover the Laws and Regulations surrounding CBD and the use of cannabis in the UK. 

5. Risks of CBD

The NHS acknowledges the risks associated with CBD oil consumption. 

Let’s look at what the Specialist Pharmacy Service and GOSH have to say about it.

A. NHS Specialist Pharmacy Service

The NHS Specialist Pharmacy Service acknowledges that the self-administration of over-the-counter CBD is becoming increasingly popular.

That’s why doctors and pharmacists should be aware of its potential adverse effects. 

The institute emphasises the FSA’s advisory — consider all aspects before using CBD and keep your daily intake at or below 70mg (unless otherwise specified by your doctor).

What happens if you take very high doses of CBD?

Excess doses (more than 100mg daily) may lead to adverse effects like nausea, drowsiness, decreased appetite, etc.

But wait…

Since only a few human studies have been done on the safety of CBD products, we should interpret the information cautiously. 


Here’s what GOSH says about the risks of using CBD oils.

While CBD oils may be safe for general people, investigations suggest cannabinoid oils can interfere with anti-epileptic medicine and strong painkillers.

CBD oils can contain active substances that interfere with such prescribed medication. 

These interactions may make the medicine less active or even harmful, causing side effects like:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Diarrhoea
  • Dizziness
  • Abnormal liver function

The real bummer?

Children often cannot describe how they feel or correctly recognise adverse effects. 

This means that the impact of CBD oil may be underreported, and parents and caregivers may not know what to look out for. 

Additionally, since children may be sensitive to small doses, the extent of side effects isn’t well known. 

Read more: Are you taking prescribed medication? Find out What Drugs Should Not Be Taken With CBD.

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6. CBD Products

So can you purchase CBD food supplements?


But there’s no way to confirm the purity of the products. 

That’s why anyone wanting to use CBD-containing supplements or make CBD cookies should obtain their supply from a reputable source (like GreenBox).

Manufacturers who make products containing cannabinoids need to include important scientific details that demonstrate their products are safe for human consumption. 

These include:

  • What it contains (ingredients)
  • Purity (exact levels of CBD or THC it contains)
  • Manufacturing practices (Carbon Dioxide or Ethanol extraction)

They may then be allowed to sell the products as food supplements.

Caution is Key when Dealing with CBD

The NHS and its affiliated organisations specify CBD oil can’t be sold as medicine. They also recommend avoiding CBD oil if you have pre-existing conditions or you’re on medication.

But that’s not the case with medical cannabis products. 

Doctors can prescribe medical cannabis as part of a treatment, but only as a last resort. 

So consult your doctor before embarking on your CBD journey. 

Cleared by your doc to take CBD oil and looking for reputable sources? 

Head to GreenBox for THC-free CBD products. Our CDB product range has high-end as well as cost-effective CBD bath products, CBD gummies, CBD drinks and more.