Treating children with medicinal cannabis will always remain a controversial topic. Medical professionals call for more research while governing bodies express concern over the long-term effects of doping with a known drug. However, the multitude of real-life success stories cannot be ignored.
When children fail to respond to treatment with traditional medicine, many parents have turned to medicinal cannabis in desperation – in particular to cannabis oil that is rich in cannabidiol (CBD), the chemical that contains much of marijuana’s medicinal properties, and low in THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive chemical known for making one ‘high’. And as CBD doesn’t get you ‘high’, it’s deemed safe and suitable to children.
Let’s look at the specific benefits of cannabis oil for children suffering from ADHD, autism and epilepsy to help you decide if it’s the right option for your child. As with any medicine, there is no one-size-fits-all approach – different dosages and combination of cannabinoids will have a different effect. Always consult with your doctor or medicinal cannabis expert.
Autism is a developmental disorder that typically appears during the first three years of a child’s life. Autism affects the brain’s normal development of social and communication skills. It is believed that autism may result from an insufficient amount of endocannabinioids – the body’s own healthy molecules that are very similar to phytocannabinoids provided by herbs like cannabis. It is believed these compounds can help block the enzymes that are affecting the 2-AG endocannabinoid, restoring a natural flow of communication between the brain and receptors.
Cannabis has been used to help relieve many of the common symptoms suffered by autistic children such as hyperactivity, anxiety, seizures, panic disorders, tantrums, destructive behaviour, self-injury or damaging property.
The Autism Research Institute believes that many symptoms of autism can be mitigated through the correct dose of medicinal cannabis: “Some of the symptoms medical marijuana has ameliorated include: anxiety, aggression, panic disorder, generalised rage, tantrums, property destruction, and self-injurious behaviour.”
Typical treatment: For autism, tinctures are best suited which allows for micro-dosing thereby building up a tolerance over time.
ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)
ADHD is becoming an increasingly common diagnosis for many children suffering from hyperactivity and distractibility. A known physiological irregularity of ADHD is the brain’s shortage of dopamine, a chemical neurotransmitter that helps with cognitive processes such as paying attention and memory. Well-known medications such as Ritalin stimulate dopamine but could also cause nasty side effects and withdrawal symptoms.
According to Dr David Bearman, a leading cannabis research expert, there could be another way to increase the presence of dopamine. In his studies, he found that “cannabis appears to treat ADHD by increasing the availability of dopamine”. The study found that cannibinoids found in cannabis could potentially correct the dopamine deficiency observed in ADHD children if dosed appropriately and administered safely (read more in this article). It is Dr Bearman’s opinion that the anandamide – sometimes called the “bliss chemical” – slows down the rate of neurotransmission, and that stimulating anandamide receptors also stimulates Renshaw cells, which turn off some cells that provide sensory input. The result is an increased ability to regulate behaviour and reduce the overstimulation that causes ADHD brains to become distracted.
Typical treatment: As with any medication, dosing should be tailored to a child’s age and weight, which is why tinctures – medicine droppers – allow for very precise and effective dosing. A combination of CBD-rich cannabis oil and THC oil is usually recommended.
Parents have been turning to cannabis for years to treat their children’s epilepsy, finding it to dramatically reduce seizure activity. In the US, a groundbreaking clinical trial is under way to study the effects of a specific strain of marijuana known as Charlotte’s Web – one that has had an astounding effect on young Charlotte Figi.
She was the first epilepsy patient successfully treated with the strain. This then five-year-old girl suffered from Dravet syndrome – a rare and severe form of intractable epilepsy. Intractable means that the seizures are not controlled by medication. Charlotte experienced up to 300 seizures weekly, before she was given a cannabis extract rich in CBD. Her symptoms diminished drastically, and 20 months later she was only experiencing three seizures per month.
Charlotte’s Web is low in THC, the compound that produces marijuana’s psychoactive effects, and high in CBD, a compound believed to reduce seizures in those suffering from certain forms of epilepsy.
Typical treatment: Children are usually treated with a combination of CBD, CBN and THCA oil. CBN is used for its sedative effect but it induces little to no psychoactive effects. THCA has shown remarkable anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective and anti-emetic effects.