A young mum has become the first person in Scotland to be prescribed cannabis legally as part of new European study – and says it allows her to play with her kids and take a shower after years of chronic pain.
Kayleigh Compston, 26, first got into smoking weed as a teenager, but stopped – until four years ago when she began to self-medicate illegally.
The mum-of-five suffers from health conditions which cause her to experience paralysis and muscle spasms, and she was routinely being prescribed morphine which knocked her out and left her bedridden.
But she found ganja bought from a dealer in Lerwick, Shetland, helped alleviate the symptoms of functional neurological disorder (FND) and fibromyalgia, and gave her a better quality of life – despite the constant anxiety over getting caught with it.
Last year Kayleigh signed up for a pioneering drug study led by Dr David Nutt, the scientist who penned a report in 2009 saying ecstasy was as dangerous as horseriding.
Kayleigh, who starts her day with a vape before going on to puff on it eight times a day, believes the stigma around cannabis needs to end, and says it also helps her partner, Matthew Ross, 25, who is legally prescribed with weed to help his multiple sclerosis.
The couple are both taking part in the study, Project 21, which with 20,000 participants will be Europe’s first and biggest national medical cannabis registry.
Kayleigh, who is one of the first people in the UK to take part, said: “I used cannabis for four years self-medicating, but I was being prescribed morphine and stuff that affected my parenting.
“Morphine is like heroin in a tablet, it knocks you out.
“Now, with the cannabis I am prescribed being legal, I can speak out.
“A lot of people don’t say anything for fear of social workers or stigma from friends and family.
“I used it during my fifth pregnancy, but this helps me to focus more, I use it as soon as I wake up.
“I have always got a copy of the script on my phone in case the police stop me, the drugs dogs won’t know what’s legal and what’s not.”
And Kayleigh believes that vaporising cannabis has made her a better mum to Tyler, nine, Tegan, eight, Tommy-Lee, seven, Teejay, five, and Tianna, four.
Before she was getting deliveries of cannabis in the post she was reliant on street dealers for varying quality and had no idea what it may have been treated with.
For the first time in years she is well enough to be able to have a shower rather than a bath, speeding up her morning routine with the kids, and to play with them properly – vaping 4g of cannabis a day.
Kayleigh said: “Every couple of hours I’ll have a vape, I haven’t worked for years because of my medical conditions and having kids young but I feel well enough to think about part-time work.”
She was pregnant with Tegan when she began to suffer from fibromyalgia which affects her pelvis and makes her unable to walk far due to chronic pain.
And around three years ago, she began to experience symptoms of FND.
Kayleigh’s cannabis is dispensed by a licensed pharmacist who sends it in the post, and she spends £600 a month for 120g, while her partner, who has a private prescription, spends £700 for the 60g, as a script has not yet been issued for the study.
She said: “It has improved my quality of life, and my children’s, I couldn’t be the mum that I am without it.
“There is still stigma from the older generation who believe it is a ‘gateway drug’ and causes paranoia but morphine is like heroin in a tablet, and cannabis is just a plant.”
The active ingredient is THC, the chemical which causes a high as well as pain relief and is not available in CBD products sold on the high street.
Kayleigh has set up a support group and heard anecdotal evidence of the benefits of cannabis on medical conditions, and hopes the study will be a breakthrough in terms of policy and attitudes changing.
Cannabis has been available on the NHS since 2018 but families can face massive problems in accessing it.
Kayleigh said: “It’s only been the past year that I’ve been able to take my kids for a walk, I’m not saying I’m not in pain the next day.
“It has made a big difference to being able to play with my kids, going for a shower and not being stuck in bed.
“I went for a shower recently for the first time in years, before I had to have baths.
“It has given me back my life.”
When her cannabis use was illegal Kayleigh kept it a secret from her kids, but now it is above board she has told her oldest three children to educate them.
Kayleigh said: “I’m not a junkie, it’s not a gateway drug. It has helped so many people and there is nothing illegal about what I’m doing.
“It needs more education.”