Doctors support medical marijuana for kids

Marijuana could help children fighting cancer.
Marijuana could help children fighting cancer.
If you had a child, brother or sister with cancer, you would probably do anything to help them. But should children with cancer be given medical marijuana?

    In a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics, an overwhelming majority of doctors said they would be willing to help parents gain access to marijuana for a child with cancer. But within that group, doctors who are legally eligible to prescribe marijuana had reservations.
    In a survey of 288 providers in Illinois, Massachusetts and Washington, 92 percent of providers were willing to help children with cancer access medical marijuana. Of the physicians questioned, 33 percent were eligible to certify marijuana -- 83 physicians; 13 Washington state advance practice providers -- and they were less likely to approve.
    Asked about barriers to recommending medical marijuana, 46 percent of all providers cited the absence of standards around formulations, potency or dosing.
    There are valid reasons that doctors and parents might want medical marijuana for a child with cancer. But marijuana can be difficult to prescribe. Marijuana has biologically active components called cannabinoids.
    “Different compounds in marijuana have different actions in the human body,” explains the American Cancer Society’s website. “For example, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) seems to cause the 'high' reported by marijuana users, and also can help relieve pain and nausea, reduce inflammation, and can act as an antioxidant. Cannabidiol can help treat seizures, can reduce anxiety and paranoia, and can counteract the high caused by THC.”
    The tricky part is that different strains and crops of marijuana can have varying amounts of the compounds. Also, marijuana is poorly absorbed when taken by mouth in baked goods. When it is smoked or vaporized it goes to the brain quickly.
    While some studies have found that smoking marijuana can help treat nausea and vomiting from cancer chemotherapy, “because marijuana plants come in different strains with different levels of active compounds, it can make each user’s experience very hard to predict,” the cancer society concludes.
     The study in the December 2017 journal Pediatrics is "Provider Perspectives on Use of Medical Marijuana in Children With Cancer," by Prasanna Ananth, et al.


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