For the Sake of the Children
The Message of Medical Cannabis
Jay R. Cavanaugh, Ph.D.
There is a belief system in the United States nurtured by decades of simplistic thinking that says to everyone we must ban cannabis for the sake of the children. Recently, speaking of the DEA raid on the Santa Cruz, California Wo/Menís Alliance for Medical Marijuana, DEA agent Richard Meyers stated, "what type of message are we sending to our children"? The Alliance, more commonly known as WAMM, is a nonprofit patient cooperative that literally gives medicine away to the sick and dying who qualify for medical cannabis under California State Law. Some of the patients are, in fact, children and a message is most certainly being sent to all of the children of the community and to the rest of us.
The message is that sick people, with their physiciansí approval, need real nontoxic medicine and programs like WAMM are going to see that they get what they need regardless of their ability to pay. Children are being taught that cannabis is a legitimate medicine that is to be used in the context of an overall medical plan designed to relieve suffering. The children are being taught to love one another and that there is all the difference in the world between legitimate medicine and drug abuse.
Furthermore, some in the medical cannabis community are brave enough to speak out publicly, stating that cannabis can provide unique help with some childhood disorders including cancer but also attention deficit disorder and autism. These latter disorders are currently treated with powerful stimulants such as amphetamine in the first case and with brain numbing toxic preparations such as Haldol in the case of autism. Parents of autistic children and children with severe ADHD often are desperate for help with seemingly insurmountable problems. Behavioral therapies while very helpful often fail to relieve the aggressive, indeed violent, behavior and lack of impulse control sometimes associated with these disorders.
Out of sheer desperation, a number of parents have begun trying adjunctive therapy with cannabis for their children. Most activists within the medical cannabis community are frightened by this development for the very real reason that they believe the use of cannabis with children will only increase the efforts of law enforcement to crush the movement. Nothing could be further from the truth. Some childhood behavioral brain disorders are so resistant to traditional treatment and that treatment is often so toxic that virtually any new method that provides real relief is going to result in a groundswell of support for medical cannabis. This is already happening in the autism community.
Imagine a child being given half a dozen psychotropic drugs from Prozac to Haldol to Valium and who continues to break down doors and assault others seemingly without provocation who now responds to therapy with medical cannabis. Imagine the parents of such children contemplating a lock up for their beloved child who now sees that child calm and functional. Loving parents will demand that cannabis be provided to the arsenal their pediatricians and pediatric neurologists already have.
The message to our sick and suffering children is that we love them. The love is greater than any blind acceptance of the existing wrongful beliefs about cannabis that are merely the propaganda of cultural elitists. As loving parents, these folks are willing to risk the wrath of Child Protective Services, the actions of the DEA, and the ignorance of their own physicians.
Over the past year, thousands of parents and professionals involved in the treatment of children have been reaching out for education on the possible role of cannabis in treating the devastating disorders of their kids. In the words of one parent of a formerly violent autistic boy, "autism took our son away from us and the love of the Lord and cannabis cookies have brought him back". The stories, one might say, are "merely" anecdotal but they are heart wrenching and true.
Brain disorders often involve an imbalance in the brain of key neurotransmitters and/or defects in their receptors. The exact cause of childhood brain disorders is still unknown but seems to involve the way in which brain cells (neurons) communicate with one another. Proper brain function requires an intricate "dance" of just the right concentrations of serotonin, dopamine, GABA, and other chemicals. It is now established that in the human body natural "cannabis", called Endocannabinoids, are active in the brain and play a vital role in regulating brain function. In fact, Endocannabinoids may be the most important chemicals of all in establishing and maintaining homeostasis or balance in key brain systems and other systems elsewhere in the body. Cannabinoids are active in determining when cells die (apoptosis) and when they live. The cannabinoids are neuroprotective. They are powerful anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatories, anti-seizure, and control the production and metabolism of key hormones including psychohormones.
In the decades to come it is certain that pharmaceutical companies will develop and test synthetic medicines based on the naturally occurring cannabinoids. They have already started. These medicines will be very expensive and it will be many decades before they are perfected and in general use. For the sake of the children we canít wait that long. Nor do we need to. Cannabis has been used safely and medically for thousands of years. Based on the 12,000 year old track record of medical cannabis preparations we can treat our sick children now in the context of comprehensive treatment overseen by qualified physicians.
Currently, we have a virtual epidemic of behavioral problems with children. These problems propel children into self destructive behaviors including drug experimentation, alcoholism, and addiction. These problems destroy our families and fill our institutions and prisons. For the sake of the children we need to more effectively diagnose, intervene, and treat our sick kids. No medicine should be withheld from the effort to treat sick kids based on cultural prejudice and misinformation. For the sake of the children, their parents will not stand for nontoxic and efficacious treatments being denied their babies.
In the near future the American Alliance for Medical Cannabis will be publishing detailed articles on the use of cannabis in the treatment of autism and attention deficit disorders. We have already published articles demonstrating the effectiveness of cannabis with other brain disorders such as Touretteís Syndrome and Bipolar Disorder. These are terrible illnesses that bring great suffering to many thousands and anguish to a legion of parents. For the sake of the children letís try medical cannabis.