At the Peace in Medicine Healing Center in Sevastopol, merchandise on display includes dried marijuana — with brands like Kryptonite, Voodoo Daddy and Train Wreck — and medicinal cookies displayed beneath a sign that reads “Keep out of your mother’s reach.”
Several Bay Area physicians who recommend medical marijuana to their patients said in recent interviews that their clientele has expanded to include teens with psychiatric conditions, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
“It’s not everyone’s medicine, but for some it can make a profound difference,” said Valerie Corral, founder of the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana, a patient collective in Santa Cruz that includes two dozen minors as registered customers.
Since California does not require doctors to report cases involving medical marijuana, there is no reliable data on the number of minors allowed to receive it. But Dr. Jean Talleyrand, who founded MediCann, a network in Oakland of 20 clinics that license patients to use the drug, said his staff members have treated up to 50 patients aged 14 to 18 with ADHD. at the forefront of the fierce medical marijuana debate, winning tolerance for people with serious illnesses like terminal cancer and AIDS. Yet because these doctors use their discretion more liberally, such support — even here — can be harder to muster, especially when it comes to using marijuana to treat teens with ADHD.
“How many ways can you say ‘one of the worst ideas of all time?’ asked Stephen Hinshaw, chair of the department of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. He cited studies showing that tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, disrupts attention, memory and concentration – functions that are already compromised in people with attention deficit disorder.
Supporters are equally adamant, although they are in a clear minority. “It’s safer than aspirin,” Dr. Talleyrand said. He and other marijuana advocates argue it’s also safer than methylphenidate (Ritalin), the prescription stimulant drug most often used to treat ADHD. This drug has documented potential side effects, including insomnia, depression, facial tics, and growth retardation.
In 1996, voters approved a ballot proposal making California the first state to legalize medical marijuana. Twelve other states have followed suit – allowing cannabis for several serious specified conditions, including cancer and AIDS – but only California adds the phrase “for any other disease for which marijuana provides relief”.
This has left doctors willing to “recommend” cannabis – in Alice in Wonderland’s medical marijuana world, they can’t legally prescribe it – with leeway that some use boldly. “You can get it for a bad back,” said Keith Stroup, the founder of the National Organization for Marijuana Law Reform.
Nevertheless, the expansion of its use among young people is controversial, even among doctors who authorize medical marijuana.
Gene Schoenfeld, a physician in Sausalito, said, “I wouldn’t do it for anyone under 21 unless they have a life-threatening condition like cancer or AIDS.
Dr Schoenfeld added: “It harms teenagers who use it chronically, and if it’s used for medical purposes, it involves chronic use.”
Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said she was particularly concerned about the risk of addiction – a risk she said was already high among teenagers and people with the condition. of attention deficit disorder.
As counterintuitive as it may seem, however, both patients and doctors have reported that marijuana helps relieve some of the symptoms, especially the anxiety and anger that so often accompany ADHD. The disorder has been diagnosed in more than 4.5 million children in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Researchers have linked teenage marijuana use to an increased risk of psychosis and schizophrenia in people genetically predisposed to these illnesses. However, a 2008 report in the journal Schizophrenia Research suggested that the incidence of mental health problems in adolescents with the disorder who used marijuana was lower than that of non-users.
Marijuana is “a godsend” for some people with ADHD, said Dr. Edward M. Hallowell, a psychiatrist who has written several books on the disorder. However, Dr Hallowell said he discourages his patients from using it, both because it is – for the most part – illegal, and because his observations show that “it can lead to a syndrome in which any what the person wants to do all day is get high, and they don’t do anything else.
Until age 18, patients requesting medical marijuana must be accompanied to doctor’s appointments and dispensaries by a parent or authorized caregiver. Some doctors interviewed said they suspected that, in at least some cases, parents accompanied their children primarily in the hope that medical clearance would allow teens to avoid buying drugs on the street.
A recent study from the University of Michigan found that over 40% of high school students had tried marijuana.
“I have no problem with that, as long as we can have our medical conversation,” Dr. Talleyrand said, adding that patients must have medical records to be seen by his doctors.
The California Medical Board began investigating Dr. Talleyrand in the spring, board spokeswoman Candis Cohen said after a KGO-TV report detailed questionable practices at MediCann clinics, which it said the report, had brought in at least $10 million in five years. .
Dr. Talleyrand and his staff are not alone in wanting to recommend marijuana to minors. At Berkeley, Dr Frank Lucido said he was questioned by the medical board but ultimately not disciplined after allowing marijuana for a 16-year-old boy with ADHD who tried Ritalin without success and amassed a record of minor arrests.
Within a year of the new treatment, he said, the boy was getting better grades and was even elected president of his special education class. “He said to his mother, ‘My brain is working. I can think,” Dr. Lucido said.
“With any drug, you weigh the benefits against the risks,” he added.
Even so, MediCann patients who receive clearance must sign a form listing possible harms of marijuana use, including “mental slowness”, memory problems, nervousness, confusion, “increased talkativeness”, rapid heartbeat, difficulty performing complex tasks, and hunger. “Some patients may become addicted to marijuana,” the form also warns.
Recent signals from the White House of greater federal tolerance for state medical marijuana laws — which ostensibly excluded sales to minors — have reignited the medical marijuana debate.
Some advocates, such as Dr. Lester Grinspoon, associate professor emeritus of psychiatry at Harvard University, suggest that the stigma of medical marijuana has less to do with questions of clinical efficacy and more to do with its association, in the popular culture, with illicit pleasure and addiction. .
Others, like Alberto Torrico de Fremont, the majority leader of the California Assembly, argue for more oversight in general. “Marijuana is much more potent these days than when we were growing up, and there’s too much of it given out for non-medical reasons,” he said in an interview last week, adding bluntly, “All kids getting medical marijuana are unacceptable”.
As proponents of increased acceptance try to win support, they may find their serious arguments undermined by the playful atmosphere of dispensaries.
Source of the article: http://EzineArticles.com/4381791
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