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Cannabis and kids – the connection scares people. As a doctor who has personally witnessed countless health successes among my ranks of patients who medicate with marijuana, I can testify to the healing power of the plant. In an age of such physical, mental and societal imbalance, many believe this herbal key to human homeostasis promises to revolutionize our diseased world as we know it. This, of course, threatens a wide cross-section of individuals, not the least of which those who find themselves in positions of “power” in aforementioned diseased world, and so we are bombarded with propaganda declaring pot as a dangerous and addicting menace to society. While most of these declarations, even those purporting to be backed by science, fall flat on their face to most as strained attempts to keep down the beach ball of truth (that cannabis is a powerfully effective and relatively safe herbal remedy), those concerning how cannabis might impact childhood development seem to invoke the highest degree of caution. Should parents be worried about their kids using cannabis? Are children harmed directly from cannabis use? How does maternal cannabis use effect the unborn or nursing child? How does childhood use of cannabis effect mental and physical development? I believe that simply asking these kinds of questions is a healthy first step in responsibly approaching this often emotionally loaded subject.
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Truthfully answering such questions to everyone's satisfaction, even in this era of eroding prohibition, is not so simple. If we put aside hemp's empowering potential as a source of nutrition, clothing, manufacturing, fuel, etc. and just focus on its medicinal and recreational potentials, its status is already elevated by its effects on human consciousness into more than just a matter of science. Religious objections to cannabis use can only be over-ruled by spiritual revelation, and the fact that so many former religious objectors claim to actually have such revelations upon using cannabis may only strengthen the resolve of those who believe that pot undermines spiritual focus or distracts us from God. The politics of cannabis prohibition (and big money behind it) practically outlaw any research on cannabis unless a study's proposed design is to strengthen claims that cannabis is somehow dangerous. The so-called “war on drugs” has scared and misinformed generations of parents and children with its reefer madness propaganda machine, crippling critical thought and biasing scientific inquiry. Of course, our natural, at times irrational, parental wariness, caught between the sermons and laws of church and state, renders scientific assurance all the more inherently limited when applied to the safety of our kids.
While a review of 20th Century cannabis prohibition propaganda offers many baseless and even hilarious reasons to fear cannabis - that it incites violence, causes brain damage, leads to use of “harder” drugs, and the like..., they all seem to draw from a fear of the mind-altering properties of cannabis. This fear naturally intensifies when children might be involved. After all, the human nervous system is extremely complex and shouldn't be messed with, at least in its formative stages, right? Even if cannabis use itself causes no harm to a child's brain, what about the risk that its mind-altering effects could cause deficits in judgment leading to unsafe behavior? Couple these questionable hazards with very real legal consequences that the criminalization of cannabis has brought us, and it's understandable how many parents, even those who are regular users themselves, regard pre-adult cannabis use with displeasure. It's one thing to feed a vice as an adult, but one invites harsh condemnation to enable a child's “drug” use, or worse yet to expose a newborn or the unborn to questionable habits. Or so it seems to some, but are these concerns justified?
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Ironically, cannabis seems to help many users do just that. The homeostatic properties of the endocannabinoid (eCB) system relax the mind and body out of stressful paradigms and postures once taken-for-granted . For many this relaxation comes and goes with the so-called “euphoric” (feeling good) effects of cannabis, but others learn from such experiences. Why fear a substance that helps people break free of stress-endowed conditioning – conditioning not only concerning the substance itself, but any conditioning that causes unnecessary stress? Chronic stress IS the modern day killer. Relaxation coupled with the slight alterations in how the world is perceived naturally leads many cannabis users to question given “truths”, rules, not to mention the authority of those perpetuating them.
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Then again, fear of consequence is a time-tested tool in a state's control of its populace. Many parents use this tactic too. Could this explain why “euphoria” is often listed by authorities (governmental, religious, etc.) as a dangerous side-effect of marijuana? Our criminal justice system certainly turns cannabis use into a risky, stress-ridden, downright scary practice when consequences like jail time or loss of parental custody can result. Is the use of cannabis even remotely as dangerous as the legal system penalizing its use? The overwhelming body of science on the matter informs us in no uncertain terms: ABSOLUTELY NOT!
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Honestly, there haven't been many controlled studies specifically measuring the effects of cannabis on childhood development, presumably due to legal restrictions on such studies. Most studies, especially maternal studies, have failed to isolate cannabis use from the use of other drugs (pharmaceutical or illicit) as a variable to measure relative risk of developmental defect, etc. However, one study did just that, perhaps because it took place in Jamaica, where cannabis remains a time honored folk remedy. This study demonstrated no negative effects in the babies exposed to regular maternal cannabis dosing (ranging from light to heavy) during their pregnancy. In fact, at the five year follow-up, children who were exposed to cannabis while in the womb demonstrated superior cognitive abilities compared to the control group whose mothers abstained from cannabis use (Dreher, et al). I am not aware of any such study focusing on cannabis use during lactation, but anecdotal evidence only seems favorable for mothers who use cannabis when breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is easier for the infant when the mother is at ease herself, and it turns out that human breast milk naturally contains eCBs, whether or not the mother uses cannabis. This finding makes sense considering how the eCB system calms the gastrointestinal system and stimulates appetite. Apparently, infants thrive on cannabinoids.
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Please don't mistake anything here as a call to supplement everyone with ganja. Like I said, cannabis is a powerful medicine. With power comes responsibility, and by that I mean that all cannabis use warrants reasonable caution. Positive effects need to be weighed against negative effects for each patient. Cannabis is a remarkably safe substance to use, regardless of its route of administration, but safety doesn't necessarily equate with optimization. For example, adolescents using cannabis tend to demonstrate temporarily worsened short-term memory function while using cannabis. On the other hand, short-term memory amongst elderly subjects tends to temporarily improve (Wenk). However, this finding doesn't mean that cannabis always compromises mental function in all pre-adults any more than it always optimizes mental function in older subjects. Adolescents with attention deficit disorder regularly report an optimization of their mental state when using cannabis, including: improved focus, calmness, impulse control and school performance. While an impressive body of evidence is accumulating linking its neuroprotective properties to the prevention and treatment of senile dementia, cannabis may well exacerbate symptoms in certain Alzheimer's patients. As with the effects and side effects of any medicine, some patients might find that cannabis causes certain mental or physical functions to improve while other functions worsen while using it. In advocating cannabis as a medicine, as opposed to a lifestyle, I am admitting that, even among pediatric populations, it's a good treatment option for some, and a not-so-good treatment option for others. No doubt, many subpopulations would be better off to avoid cannabis entirely, but the evidence just doesn't support any conclusion that cannabis is dangerous to babies, children or teenagers, in general.
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(Scientific references available upon request.)

Comments  

#3 Bewellfarmer 2012-12-17 00:19
Fixed the video. :lol:
+1 #2 kevinbaikomd 2012-12-15 18:56
Article updated.

And here's an interesting video link to add perspective. It links suicides and homicide to psychiatric prescription drugs.



#1 Rasta Vision 2012-11-22 07:16
Thank You Dr.Baiko This is a great article. :-)

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