Is Medical Marijuana Safe for Children?

Like some cancer patients in states where it's allowed, Mykayla Comstock uses cannabis as part of her treatment.

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Like some cancer patients in states where it’s allowed, Mykayla Comstock uses cannabis as part of her treatment.

Comstock is seven-years old. Her mother, a long time advocate for medical use of the illegal drug, has been giving her a gram of oral cannabis oil every day. Despite the fact that medical marijuana is legal in Oregon, where Comstock lives, the idea of giving it to a child still gives pause to many adults who associate the drug with recreational use that breaks the law.

As reported by ABC News, Mykayla was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in July. Against her doctor’s wishes, her mother, Erin Purchase, began giving her lime-flavored capsules filled with cannabis oil after she had a poor response to her initial chemotherapy treatment. Her doctors suggested a bone marrow transplant, but while she was taking the medical marijuana, she went into remission in August. She continues to rely on cannabis to ease pain and nausea and her mother plans to continue giving her the drug during the additional two to three years of chemotherapy she still faces.  Purchase,  believes that certain components in marijuana, which show anti-cancer activity in many early studies, helped spark the remission. Mykayla’s current doctor knows she takes the capsules, but doesn’t discuss the marijuana as part of her medical therapy.

MORE: Marijuana in Colorado: Ready for Business, Complete With Regulations

Experts like Igor Grant of the University of California’s Center for Medical Cannabis Research warn that the effects of the drug on child development are unknown.  But the same is true for other medications used to fight pain and nausea that are currently given to children with cancer, as well as for powerful antipsychotic drugs that are used in long term treatment of childhood mental illnesses. Opioid drugs like morphine and Oxycontin, which are sometimes used to treat the severe pain that accompanies life-threatening cancer and other diseases, for example, can cause overdoses.

Although marijuana can be addictive, addiction rates are often lower than those to opioid drugs, and discontinuing opioids is associated with severe physical withdrawal symptoms not seen with marijuana.  While opioids can cause nausea and vomiting, marijuana reduces the risk of these symptoms that frequently plague cancer patients as side effects of radiation or chemotherapy.  Advocates like Purchase argue that if opioids are acceptable to treat youngsters’ cancer pain, then marijuana should be as well.

MORE: How Cannabinoids May Slow Brain Aging

The American Academy of Pediatrics, however, disagrees, and opposes the use of marijuana to treat young children, citing its addictive potential and the many unknowns about how it may affect developing bodies. The Institute of Medicine (IOM), a scientific group of experts consulted by Congress, analyzed the available data and since 1999 has acknowledged that certain legitimate medical uses of marijuana are worth additional study. While the panel noted that many effective treatments already exist to relieve nausea and cancer pain, it recognized that for some patients who may not respond to these therapies, the components in marijuana may be helpful.  The group’s main objection to the drug was its use in smoked preparations, which is not an issue in this case.

The IOM’s report highlights the need for much more research into understanding medicinal uses of marijuana—including for which symptoms or conditions it might be most effective, and for which patients. Those concerns are magnified when it comes to treating children like Comstock, who often are not included in clinical trials because of their young age, and who may have many more years to contend with any possible side effects of the drug. Some experts point out that not all of marijuana’s components, and their effects on the body, have been studied, not to mention well understood. Without more research, both doctors and parents will continue to face the difficult decision of giving youngsters a compound and hoping it will do more good than harm.

157 comments
OrlandMark
OrlandMark

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Ruudoriginal

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TracyPhil

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CharlieWest1
CharlieWest1

is it safe for children is freaking orange juice safe for children? of course its good for them come one time? I love your magazine but why the idiotic question?

CharlieWest1
CharlieWest1

what a stupid question it cures cancer morons

Katrinasmith
Katrinasmith

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roselenny001
roselenny001


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ronhuddleston
ronhuddleston

Here's another point to support the argument that this herb has far more benefit than most people know. I have recently had to quit smoking because I lost my job do to this country's ignorance and companies drug testing policies. I had an infection in my jaw above a rotting tooth and did not treat due to financial restrictions and laziness(maybe in part from smoking pot) and left untreated for close to a year. My understanding is that it is quite common for someone to die from an infection in the mouth that makes its way into the brain due to such close proximity. I was a heavy cannabis user from the time I got off work until I went to bed every night. The pain in my mouth was minimal if I felt it at all and I am still alive to tell the story. This to me implies anti-inflammatory, antibiotic and likely anti-pain properties. If someone has a better explanation I would very much like to hear it. I am in fact skeptical about most of the health claims(positive claims) about cannabis because I know that most addicts like my self would come up with almost anything to justify my use. I was born with "above average intelligence" and still have "above average intelligence" after 10+ years of use starting at 14 years of age. My problems with cannabis are directly due to my addictive nature(I love sex and a good rib-eye steak too by the way). I like what makes me feel good and that doesn't make cannabis an evil drug(and it is a mind altering substance whether you want to call it a drug or not - not a drug is the most retarded argument I ever heard - it's irrelevant). Dumb pot heads were dumb before they started smoking and we are all impaired a little when we are high. Cannabis if nothing else, can and does improve quality of life for suffering individuals whether it cures anything or not. I believe my experience and none of anyone's bull(for or against pot). All studies have the potential to be bias on both sides of the the argument and none of you can prove otherwise. Published studies are not proof of anything!!!!! Unless you believe that we, as human being are always honest. If someone has a terminal illness,(regardless of age) then they are "dying" and anything that improves their health or quality of life is worthwhile. Those of you who resort to name calling to get your point across are behaving like unenlightened animals and notice it's both the so called druggies and the anti-druggies doing the name calling. So obviously the pot has nothing to do with it!!! Be kind to each other or no one will respect your "opinion".

healthcareservice01
healthcareservice01


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HeshamMostafa
HeshamMostafa

This is an actual discovery in cancer study. A clinical trial revealed that they were been able to diminish 3-year fatality rate in people with metastatic cancer malignancy by more than 5 times. There's nothing comparable to this effect in the whole oncology investigation. I repeat 5 times fewer people past away in three years after they studied one particular supplementary therapy. The treatment took it's origin from the tactic employed by nearly 200 Russian health care professionals, and the goal of the treatment is to enhance oxygen content in body tissues by using the renowned Buteyko breathing technique. These stunning outcomes are documented and all particulars of their treatment plan are identified in the Kindle book from Amazon.com “Doctors Who Cure Cancer”: <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Doctors-Cure-Cancer-Books-ebook/dp/B007IZZ4AQ/">Cancer</a> by Dr. Artour Rakhimov. Once you see anyone with cancer malignancy, feel free share!

BruceCain
BruceCain

Know thyself.  Heal thyself.  HippocratesFirst I would give a young child Cannabis before Ritalin, Antipsycotics etc.  Cannabis is as safe as a cup of coffee.  Yet no mention of the fact that schools make money by getting kids to take these dangerous drugs.  Yet I hear no call for studies on this one despite the fact antidepressants make it more likely you will commit suicide.  Now THAT is irony at its best.The bigger problem is we have been duped into not taking any responsibility for our own health.  Don't' "self medicate" they say.Let me translate that for you.  "You are a dumb sheep and will be instructed to take any crap WE see fit: vaccines, drugs etc.In the end let us keep in mind that "all of this" is really about the benjamins.

Paulpot
Paulpot

"Marijuana is the safest therapeutically active substance know to mankind", Judge Francis Young of the DEA.The fact that no evidence of danger appears after thousands of years of use is in itself evidence of its safety.The American Academy of Pediatrics are torturers not doctors.To deny anyone let alone children the right to life saving medicine is a crime against humanity.

QuietStormX
QuietStormX

Anyone who has smoked marijuana know the effect it has. You can't become addicted and their are no adverse effects when you stop. And no rational person smokes all the time like cigarettes. Shure there has to be more testing and study to know the treatment, effects and potential.

cmiller1
cmiller1

The active ingredient of marijuana, THC, increases the spread of a skin carcinoma (Cancer Reserch, 2007, vol 67, p. 7230-7237).  As an immune system suppressant, there should be concern that it would adversely affect survival from a variety of cancers (e.g. Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol enhances breast cancer growth and metastasis by suppression of the antitumor immune response, J. Immunology, 2005, vol 174, n o. 6, p. 3281-3289. More research must be done before this drug is administered to cancer patients, particularly children.

CharlesEdsonRogersJr.
CharlesEdsonRogersJr.

www.phoenixtears.ca says it all.Cannabis oil cures cancer.Please check itout.And before you come back here and make fools of yourselves,please take some time out to think.Please? Cannabis,medicine for the 21 st century!

kasiola2003
kasiola2003

I'm 55, and I've been smoking weed since I was 15. I didn't graduate high school but got an almost perfect score on my GED, and then went on to college and received an Associates and a Bachelor's degree all with a GPA of 3.67 overall. I'm upbeat and positive and trust me, my life or rather my medical condition almost demands that I use cannabanoids in some form. I agree with francogcpt, I'd much rather give weed or some form of it to my kids rather than the poisonous drugs they give.

cj4b2
cj4b2

If they want to get rid of cancer, they should just go to Mexico and get vitamin B17 treatments. The FDA banned it in the U.S., but that is a whole other story. Look it up, the whole story is very intriguing. 

CommonSens
CommonSens

I am a little concerned that cannabis has altered your observation skills.  The paper is published by Meier et al. (not Dunedin).

They say that people make decisions and then seek advice that agrees with their point of view.  

Instead, try to look at this from an unbiased point of view, read the scientific, peer-reviewed article, and then ask yourself how it can be wrong.  If you can prove it wrong (scientifically, not anecdotally), then I would like to see it - but I am guessing that you can't.  In the meantime, we should consider the safety of vulnerable populations such as children and the long-term effects that adult decisions have on their lives.  Why take the risk?

one.gold.lion
one.gold.lion

@strathmeyer @BillInLA  it's well known long term use of acetominiphen (sp?) and other over the counters' are awful for your body - kidneys, liver, stomach, etc.   marijuana though, scientists still can't find anything but benefits when used in a healthy manner. (vaporizer, edibles, oils, etc)pharms are made in a lab, pot is made in the ground. 

strathmeyer
strathmeyer

@BillInLA Sorry to hurt your feelings Bill but it's a pretty well know fact! No need to insult people when you learn something new!

francogcpt
francogcpt

I would much rather have my child suck on a marijuana lollipop than take whatever there is in Nyquil, Acetaphetamine which are over the counter, and I would definitely rather opt for using medical marijuana over anything created by the Pharmaceuticals.  It's just healthier and that is a scientific and medical fact.

sopcolner
sopcolner

@one.gold.lion @strathmeyer @BillInLA  cannabis oil was indeed wonderful and very effective in treating cancer' if not for the government and their so called rules in regulating cannabis my Dad would have still been alive. thanks to the newly policy for legalizing cannabis else i would have still lost my son to kidney cancer, i was really touched and surprised when i watch lots of documentary on how cannabis oil had helped lot of people whom their family members never thought they could make it after undergoing several ''Chemo'' from the dept of my heart i must say a word of appreciation to Dr  for the timely intervention in the life of my son suffering from Kidney Cancer. as i am writing this testimony on this Blog my Son is so strong and healthy in spite he hasn't completed the total Dosage' for your cannabis and medical consultation try and get in touched with him through his email: ricksimpsonphoenixtearsoil@gmail.com) so he can enlightened you more.ricksimpsonphoenixtearsoil@gmail.com

MarcShakter
MarcShakter

 They should be using this girl as a study on the use of medical marijuana in child cancer patients. It stands to reason in the long term, if it reduces the pain and lets her eat normally, the benefits will outweigh the possible negatives. Improper nutrition for whatever reason in children can cause a lot of health problems in later life. Being in constant unrelenting pain can lead to depression, which can effect long term health both mentally and physically as well. If this helps a sick little girl get better, who is anyone else to say it's wrong without being scientifically proven to be harmful to a child's development? 

manolosf.md
manolosf.md

If the mother truly cares about her daughter getting over the cancer, and is not achieving a cure in Oregon, why not contact St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis?  They have treated and cured thousands of A.L.L cases. The debate has thus far centered around the child's use of her mother's marijuana, but instead, the debate should be why the mother is not pursuing all means of treating and curing her child's cancer?  Until the reports come out that all attempts have been made to treat her daughter's cancer, then her child's cancer just turns into an excuse to get and use marijuana.  http://www.stjude.org

Donna Hall
Donna Hall

They could force her to take some man-made concoction with many side effects then give her MORE prescribed concoctions to help her with those side effects and so on and and so on, or give her an herb right out of the ground. GO FIGURE.

Tara St Wood
Tara St Wood

when it's a life vs death situation you will try anything you can to help you and your situation

EpidiMagica
EpidiMagica

Where do you all think original medicene came from?  Most are plant based or mimic them.  Our ancestors knew the value of using herbs & plants for healing - in the beginning it's all they had.  Even birds & animals know enough to eat certain plants for prevention, relief, & healing from illness.  I don't understand what the big deal is here.  It's not like she is rolling one up for her kid to smoke and let's have a party.  I would not hesitate to administer an herbal alternative or addition to healing therapy as long as your physician agrees.  It may be just the extra kick it takes to lick the illness - or at least easier to deal with it during the healing process.

Debbie Stinnett
Debbie Stinnett

You can rest assured it is safer than the poison handed out under RX. Chemo should be banned or come with a label that states this drug can cause severe pain and a horrible death. Marijuana and hemp oil will not kill you. If it were my child it would be available but no chemo drugs of any kind. EVER!!!

EricSlyter
EricSlyter

I don't know.  And I'm a pretty staunch advocate for the legalization of marijuana.  Maybe this question might be relevant:  Are opiate pain relievers appropriate for children?  Preliminarily I'd say:  not in most cases, but maybe in extreme cases.  In the scenario described in this article, I'd say:  it's okay as long as it has a significant positive impact on the symptoms the child experiences, and any negative effects of the treatment don't outweigh the positive effects.  Cancer is a big monster for a child to have to encounter.

dumdum2150
dumdum2150

Pot is like the Military. If your CRAZY coming out. You were probably CRAZY going in. Speaking of crazy. What kind of numnut thinks pot is more dangerous for kids than Morphine?   

brmca001
brmca001

obvious troll is obvious 

JohnKrisfalusci
JohnKrisfalusci

mariana should be banned forever. this stuff is probably just as poisonous as heroin, meth, tobacco. Seriously, this causes nothing but more crimes, and think about it... all the prisoners in america are because of marijuana related offenses and all the addiction clinics are #1 in marijuana problems. We just dont need it... this stuff has no purpose on Earth whatsoever.. TRUST me~

JohnKingofthePaupersTurmel
JohnKingofthePaupersTurmel

Is Medical Marijuana Safe for Children?Jct: Wrong question. The right question was: "Is a herb that has never killed anyone in recorded history unsafe for anyone?" Of course, that's typical of those who haven't done their research to be worried about a herb that has never killed anyone in history, those who call a herb a "drug." They don't even call the the poppy plant a drug. I've always thought of a drug as something manufactured, not something grown. But those who accept that a herb can be labelled a drug then can exhibit all the hysteria about possible dangers of drugs rather than the confidence of a history of non-toxicity! Add in it's good for almost everything and doctors who aren't helping promote it can be labeled unprofessional prostitutes who won't do their research.

TrishReich
TrishReich

I applaud this mom for advocating for her child, and the physicians should too! My youngest child was born with Stage 4 Neuroblastoma and was started on chemo when she was just 3 weeks old, after having 4 major operations...she received a wide range of chemo drugs, antiemetics, antibiotics, nuclear medicine test etc until she went into remission at 10 months old. I do not regret her having had any of those drugs (in remission 12 yrs and counting!) but there ARE late effects, but when it's a choice between intractable pain/nausea or even death, or possible late effects, what's a parent to do?!...it sounds like this mom is at least choosing what is probably the least damaging alternative, I wish that choice was available to everyone.

MuzzyLu
MuzzyLu

Cannabis is safer for a child with cancer than most prescription drugs. Marijuana was legal in America for years before it was banned, and nothing horrible happened. Cannabis will only help people in pain, and be a very mild tame recreational habit to others. Better for America that many people use marijuana than most other drugs and alcohol. Marijuana is a very healthy food if taken as an edible, not smoked. There is a great $2.99 e-book on medical marijuana: MARIJUANA - Guide to Buying, Growing, Harvesting, and Making Medical Marijuana Oil and Delicious Candies to Treat Pain and Ailments by Mary Bendis, Second Edition. This book has great recipes for easy marijuana oil, delicious Cannabis Chocolates, and tasty Dragon Teeth Mints. 

US1776
US1776

Marijuana is safe for anyone.

It is one of the safest medicinal herbs on the planet.

It takes 40,000 times the dosage required to get fully high, in order to kill a person.   That means you would have to consume a dump truck load of the stuff to kill you.

There has never been a single overdose from marijuana because it is physically impossible.

It's time to end the persecution of this highly beneficial plant of nature.

LEGALIZE and TAX NOW !!

.

Kelly McConnell Hornbaker
Kelly McConnell Hornbaker

hmmm, never considered that aspect. I am so for it with adults, I'll have to think about that one. Thanks for the flip

William Beschman Jr.
William Beschman Jr.

What a great way to introduce a CHILD to government controlling her life. How many studies have linked smoking pot to stunted brain development???

Rich Wang
Rich Wang

Justin, please do some fact checking because you are terribly mistaken. THC actually inhibits the growth of tumors by starving them of oxygen, and there is no way in hell there are "just as many" carcinogens as tobacco. The only carcinogen in marijuana is probably the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that occur any time you burn anything organic, though you probably ingest more of that from a bite of grilled meat than from a pack of joints. This is beside the point though since medical users don't have to smoke anything, and when they don't the medicine is not carcinogenic at all!

David Lautz
David Lautz

Ive been smoking pot for 35 years. Pot should be legalized on the same level as beer. But it is NOT a pain releiver. It WILL help your appetite. One of these days (maybe) therell be common sense on this.

Shannon K. Walsh
Shannon K. Walsh

No one really knows because it is on the scheduled substances list that does not allow research. But it is probably better than the narcotics she would be given instead.