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Medical Marijuana in Pediatric Medicine

Published on August 19, 2010


Cannabis can realize its full therapeutic potential only when it is completely legal and people don’t have to go to their doctors to get it. – Dr. Grinspoon

Many physicians, even in California, refrain from approving use of cannabis by patients out of residual fear. Countless others refrain because they learned nothing about cannabis in medical school and cannot knowledgeably advise patients about dosage, side effects, or mechanism of action. This is of course not an acceptable situation, especially in pediatric care, because it is so useful and safe and potentially lifesaving in certain cases.

The stigma associated with “marijuana” presents powerful discouragement to doctors. Inhumane federal laws, which list marijuana on Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act, the tier reserved for drugs with “no currently accepted medical use,” continue to keep marijuana away from doctors even though everyone knows this is as far away from the truth as anyone can go. The United States government enjoys its cruelty as has been demonstrated by its “war against drugs.”

Cannabinoids, the active components of marijuana, inhibit tumor growth in laboratory animals and also kill cancer cells. Their use in the case of childhood cancer is compassionate.

Marijuana is brimming with healing compounds and doctors 100 years ago understood this simple fact; that was the reason pharmacies always made it available to the public. Iodine and marijuana were principle medicines used in the 19th and very early part of the 20th century. Both were forced from the consciousness of modern physicians who became mentally enslaved to pharmaceutical interests that got doctors more interested in money and poisoning than in helping patients with safe and effective medicines.

Cannabinoids are usually well tolerated, and do not produce the generalized toxic effects of conventional chemotherapies.

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Marijuana is an extremely broad acting and universally useful medicine with appropriate application for most disease conditions. Crohn’s disease patients credit the plant with helping reverse their debilitating intestinal disorders, and accredited research suggests its use in dealing with and preventing diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and assorted maladies arising from chronic inflammation. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and natural cannabinoids counteract cancer and chemical toxicity from drugs and environmental sources thus helping to preserve normal cells.

Not many people or physicians realize how useful or even critical medical marijuana can be in pediatrics – or how it can save many children’s lives. We are talking about serious medicine and the pharmaceutical companies know this and are making synthetic versions of THC, but synthetic copies cannot compete with the real thing in terms of safety and effectiveness.

Knocking on death’s door, 10-year-old Joey Perez was slowly dying. The potpourri of prescription medications he’d consumed since the age of five had damaged his body beyond repair – the side effects were literally killing him. Joey was diagnosed with autism at 18 months old. At one point, he was taking six different medications – up to three times a day. As a result of the side effects, Joey became malnourished and was diagnosed with anorexia. Every day, his condition got worse. His eyes were sunken in and you could easily see all the bones in his chest. He was refusing to eat.


At the end of his allopathic treatments his medical prognosis was high probability of death within six months. Today Joey is thriving and his mother has been on The Good Morning Show to share that the Compassionate Use of Medical Marijuana saved her son’s life. “Although medical marijuana is not known to be a cure for autism, it has been proven to facilitate ‘life’ for my son and has ushered him into his most progressive developmental period ever.


12 Months After Marijuana Treatments

Today at age 11, Joey is flourishing with new communicative expressions, he’s gained over 40 lbs, and he’s happier, healthier, better behaved and is more productively active than ever before. Before we began to give him treatments of oral marijuana he was a danger to himself and others. He had suffered from anxiety, OCD, and aggression since an early age. At the age of five, Joey was prescribed the first of many ineffective, harmful medications. The medications he was prescribed at that time worked for about a year but Joey refused to eat and that was the beginning of their story. As a result of the serious side effects, Joey became malnourished and was diagnosed with anorexia. It was the famous marijuana brownies that saved my son’s life and it was the doctors and their pharmaceutical medicines that almost killed him.

“It seems to me if one is going to need to use drugs, one ought to consider a relatively safe drug, like marijuana,” said Bernard Rimland, Ph.D. of the Autism Research Institute. Marijuana, the forbidden medicine, seems to be useful for some people with adult attention deficit disorder, impulse disorders and bipolar disorder. Some families have found marijuana to be nothing short of miraculous. Some of the symptoms marijuana has ameliorated include anxiety – even severe anxiety – aggression, panic disorder, generalized rage, tantrums, property destruction and self-injurious behavior. One mother commenting on using marijuana for her autistic child said, “I know it’s not the end all answer but it’s been the best answer for the longest time for us in regards to ALL the other medications. I cannot tell you how many months we would go on a medication wondering if it was doing anything, anything at all. Here we can see the difference in 30-60 minutes guaranteed.”

Patients report medical marijuana as more therapeutic and better tolerated than other medications.[1]

Dr. Rimland continues saying, “Clearly, medical marijuana is not a drug to be administered lightly. But compare its side effects to the known effects of Risperdal, which include massive weight gain, a dramatically increased risk of diabetes, and an elevated risk of deadly heart problems, as well as a host of other major and minor problems. Other psychotropic drugs are no safer, causing symptoms ranging from debilitating tardive dyskinesia to life-threatening malignant hyperthermia or sudden cardiac arrest. Of all drugs, the psychotropic drugs are among the least useful and most dangerous, and the benefit vs. risk profile of medical marijuana seems fairly benign in comparison.” He continues, “The reports we are seeing from parents indicate that medical marijuana often works when no other treatments, drug or non-drug, have helped.”

Recently, researcher Dr. Ester Fride of the Behavioral Sciences Department of Israel’s College of Judea and Samaria published a pair of scientific papers stating that the brain’s cannabinoid receptors (receptors in the brain that respond pharmacologically to various compounds in cannabis as well as other endogenous compounds) and the naturally occurring messenger molecules that activate and bind to them (so-called endocannabinoids) “are present from the early stages of gestation” and may play “a number of vital roles” in human prenatal and postnatal development.

Writing in Neuroendocrinology Letters and the European Journal of Pharmacology, Fride suggests, “A role for the endocannabinoid system for the human infant is likely.” She notes that in animals, the endogenous cannabinoid system fulfills several important developmental functions, including: embryonal implantation (which requires a temporary and localized reduction in the production of the endocannabinoid anandamide), neural development, neuroprotection, the development of memory and oral-motor skills, and the initiation of suckling in newborns.

A dysfunctional endocannabinoid system, Fride speculates, may be responsible for certain abnormalities in infants, particularly “failure-to-thrive” syndrome, a condition in which newborns fail to properly grow and gain weight. (In animal studies, mice fail to gain weight and die within the first week of life when their cannabinoid receptors are blocked.)

Dr. Fride strongly recommends the use of cannabinoids in pediatric medicine. She notes that “excellent clinical results” have been reported in pediatric oncology and in case studies of children with severe neurological diseases or brain trauma, and suggests that cannabis-derived medicines could also play a role in the treatment of other childhood syndromes, including the pain and gastrointestinal inflammation associated with cystic fibrosis.

Research presented at the International Conference for Autism Research in Montreal in June of 2006 of 275 children found serious intestinal inflammation in autistic children identical to that described by Dr. Andrew Wakefield. Gut biopsy tissue from 82 of these children reveals that 85% have evidence of the measles virus in their inflamed intestines. The news is a huge embarrassment for the Department of Health in England, which has unjustly crucified Dr. Wakefield’s research.

Marijuana cuts lung cancer tumor growth in half, a 2007 Harvard Medical School study shows.[2] The active ingredient in marijuana cuts tumor growth in common lung cancer in half and significantly reduces the ability of the cancer to spread.

Because the development of the cannabinoid receptor system appears to occur gradually over the course of childhood, “children may be less prone to the psychoactive side effects of THC or endocannabinoids than adults,” Fride writes. “Therefore, it is suggested that children may respond positively to the medicinal applications of cannabinoids without [psychoactive] effects.” She concludes, “The medical implications of these novel developments are far reaching and suggest a promising future for cannabinoids in pediatric medicine” for conditions including cachexia (severe weight loss), cystic fibrosis, failure-to-thrive, anorexia, inflammation, and chronic pain.

“It’s clear that the cannabinoid system is essential for complete human development, and that cannabis medicines have a great potential to help sick children,” says University of Southern California professor Mitch Earlywine, author of the book, Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence. “Given the well-established safety of the medication, clinical trials for other disorders, particularly cystic fibrosis and ‘failure-to-thrive,’ seem a humane and essential next step.”

Nausea appetite loss, pain and anxiety are all afflictions
of wasting, and all can be mitigated by marijuana.
– Institute of Medicine[3]

In test-tube experiments, researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Md. exposed rat nerve cells to a toxin that is typically released during strokes. Cannabidiol reduces the extent of damage researchers reported to the National Academy of Sciences. More effective than vitamins C or E, strong antioxidants such as cannabidiol will neutralize free radicals and so might limit the damage and reduce the severity of ischemic strokes.[4]

Marijuana has remarkably low toxicity and lethal doses in humans have not been described. This is in stark contrast to a number of commonly prescribed medications used for similar purposes, including opiates, anti-emetics, anti-depressants, and muscle relaxants, not to mention legal substances used recreationally including tobacco and alcohol,” writes Dr. Gregory T. Carter, Clinical Associate Professor of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine.

Pharmaceutical companies are for drugging preschoolers with Ritalin even though about 40% of children developed side effects and roughly 11% dropped out because of problems including irritability, weight loss, insomnia and slowed growth. “Preschoolers on methylphenidate, or generic Ritalin, grew about half an inch less and gained about two pounds less than expected during the 70-week study. This is a catastrophe. It just opens up the way for drugging the younger kids,” said Dr. Peter Breggin, a New York psychiatrist and longtime critic of psychiatric drug use in children. Breggin said the research is part of a marketing push by the drug industry to expand drug use to the youngest children.

“I found babies, 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds being given mind-altering drugs,” says Carole Keeton Strayhorn, Texas’ state comptroller. Strayhorn conducted a two-year investigation into allegations that foster kids in Texas are over medicated. “Children in foster care in Texas are dying. Children in foster care are being drugged,” Strayhorn says. If we concede that child psychiatrists are not absolutely out of their minds themselves, we can grant that there is a real need for something to calm down these children but certainly to poison them with a very toxic medicine when their brains are still forming is outside the range of medical reason. It is an insane paradigm and a cruel system of government that would keep the safest and most effective drug out of the hands of parents and the most harmful toxic medicines legal – medicines that are addictive and can ruin a child’s entire life.

The American College of Physicians (ACP) has urged the government to reverse its ban on medical treatments using marijuana. “ACP encourages the use of non-smoked forms of THC (the main psychoactive element in marijuana) that have proven therapeutic value.” The Philadelphia-based organization, the second largest doctors group in the United States, cited studies into marijuana’s medical applications such as treating severe weight loss associated with illnesses such as AIDS, and treating nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy for cancer patients.[5]

Richard Cowan said, “The suppression of medical cannabis is mass murder, but in the real world it is simply cannabis prohibition itself that assures that tens of millions of people will die sooner and with far greater suffering than would be the case if they had easy access to this plant. Even Saddam Hussein has not caused so much pain and suffering. Cannabis prohibition is indeed a weapon of mass destruction that no government wants to acknowledge.”

The easiest way for doctors to learn about the pharmaceutical dynamics of marijuana is to self-prescribe it for themselves. Firsthand experience is valuable and not dangerous since it is nontoxic, even at high dosages. Marijuana certainly is a mind opener, thus we can understand why the federal government is against it. But in pediatric medicine we have to open our hearts and minds to everything that will help our young charges. This does not come easily to pediatricians who are following the lockstep of the government with their obsession with dangerous vaccines, meaning most pediatricians would have a mental and emotional breakdown if they were to acknowledge the harm they are doing. It is very difficult to use marijuana and maintain one’s rigid mental positions; though not quite a truth serum, it’s close. Again this is another reason the federal government is so much against its mind-moderating ways.

[1] Amtmann D, Weydt P, Johnson KL, Jensen MP, Carter GT. Survey of cannabis use in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2004;21:95-104.

[3] Joy JE, Watson SJ, Benson JA. Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base. Institute of Medicine. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 1999.

[4] Science News, Vol. 154, No. 2, July 11, 1998, p. 20.

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Dr. Mark Sircus AC., OMD, DM (P)

Director International Medical Veritas Association
Doctor of Oriental and Pastoral Medicine

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