by Kimberly Allen, RN
Despite what many critics want you to believe, the marijuana plant is one of the oldest and “most powerful plants on the planet.” Marijuana has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. In the mid 1800’s the use of marijuana for medical purposes was embraced by Western medicine. By the early 1900’s over 100 papers had been written by Dr’s and published in Western medical publications. In those papers they recommended the use of marijuana for a wide variety of disorders. In fact marijuana was listed in the US pharmacopoeia until 1941, then after congress passed the marijuana tax act it was removed. Today over 60 health organizations both in the US and internationally including the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Public Health Association as well as the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine are in favor of immediate access to medicinal marijuana to patients that can benefit from it.
Despite the fact that the US has decided that “marijuana has no accepted medicinal use years ago it was awarded a patent on cannabinoiods when researchers discovered that cannabinoids have particular antioxidant properties that make them beneficial in the prevention and treatment of a wide range of diseases linked to oxidation like autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. They also discovered that cannabinoids also can be used as neuroprotectants especially in restricting the amount of neurological damage that occur in ischemic attacks like a stroke. They are also beneficial in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases as well as the dementia that is associated with HIV. There are also non-psychoactive components of cannabinoids like cannabidoil which has been found beneficial in the treatment of a variety of conditions including seizures.
Most people think medicinal marijuana is used only to treat chronic pain, and nausea as well as to promote appetite in people with HIV or receiving chemotherapy treatments, but there have been numerous studies showing that it can also treat other diseases including cancer. the active ingredients in marijuana known as cannabinoids have properties that have not only inhibited the growth of tumors but killed cancer cells in lab animals. The THC in marijuana that focuses on cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 work like endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids are cannabinoids that are produced naturally in our bodies and initiate the CB1 and CB2 receptors. Researchers believe that THC can be used as a targeted treatment for certain cancers like lung cancer. A study has also been conducted using cannabinoids in the treatment of Touretts’s syndrome. The study revealed that patients with Tourett’s syndrome had a significant reduction in symptoms after just one dose compared to those that received a placebo. One of the most well documented benefits of marijuana is in the treatment of glaucoma. In fact there is not a single valid study that can disprove the significant benefits marijuana has on glaucoma patients. Since Montel Williams, a former talkshow host, started using marijuana to treat his MS there has been more documentation on the benefits of marijuana in treating MS.And despite all the unsubstantiated things you have heard about the effects of marijuana on the brain in 2006 the Scripps Institute proved the THC in marijuana actually helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease. The properties in the THC block the deposits in the brain that are responsible for causing the disease. More recently the benefits of using a particular cannabinoid known as cannabidoil to treat severe seizure disorders has been well publicized making it even more clear that there are real people suffering needlessly because of the legal status of marijuana.
Since the 1970’s when marijuana was classified as a schedule I drug, which supposedly means it’s more addictive than cocaine, there has not been a shred of evidence to shred of evidence to support that. In fact more to the contrary not only is it less addictive than cocaine, or morphine, which by the way are schedule II drugs, but it is less addictive than cigarettes which by the way are legal. Both alcohol and cigarettes cause more harm to the human body than marijuana and neither of them have the health benefits that marijuana does. So why is it still illegal according to federal laws? Well. for one thing they’d have to find something to do with all that money they spend on the war on drugs and what do they do about all the people currently in jail for possession and/or use of marijuana? Then there’s the pharmaceutical companies that stand to lose a lot of money if marijuana were to be legalized. People could choose to use organic marijuana to treat their illness instead of the very expensive prescription drugs they produce every year. Something else to keep in mind the abuse of as well as the number of deaths related to prescriptions drugs is rising steadily while on the other hand there is not a single documented case of overdose or death from marijuana.
Dravet syndrome is a rare form of epilepsy also known as severe myoclonic epilepsy of infancy or SMEI. This form of epilepsy only occurs in approximately 1 or 2 out of every 500 children with epilepsy.
As much as 80% of the time Dravet syndrome is caused by a genetic defect. These defects occur in the SCN1A gene, there are a variety of mutations involving the SCN1A that have been seen in Dravet syndrome. Only about 3 out of 10 children with Dravet syndrome do not test positive for a genetic mutation of the SCN1A gene.
The symptoms of Dravet syndrome usually manifest in your child’s first year. It usually starts with a febrile seizure, which is a clonic seizure that is associated with a high fever. The seizure can affect either one side of your child’s body or both. then with in a month or two your child will have another febrile seizure. these seizures always last longer than they should, as long as 15 to 30 minutes sometimes. In some children repetitive seizures soon follow while in others they don’t start having multiple seizures until after their second birthday. Once your child is 2 years of age the seizures occur more frequently and are more persistent. Frequently they also are more obvious and tend to involve a particular part of the body. By this time the seizures occur whether or not your child has a fever and they can occur at anytime, day or night. Many of the children with Dravet syndrome are also photosensitive, meaning their seizures can be initiated by lights that are flashing or flickering. The environment can also cause a seizure especially hot environments like a hot bath or shower.
In most cases children with Dravet syndrome have a variety of different types of seizures. In the first year they usually have clonic seizures which are a repetitive jerking or tonic – clonic seizures which consist of jerking and stiffness. As your child gets older myoclonic and focal seizures become more common.
Children with Dravet syndrome also have other problems in addition to the seizures including delays in development, especially language and speech. They also have difficulty with balance and movement as well as other orthopedic problems. most also have significant growth and nutritional problems as well as problems with sleep. Children with Dravet syndrome also tend to have chronic infections as well as problems with their autonomic nervous system.
Although there have been advances in the treatment of epilepsy, Dravet syndrome continues to be resistant to mos medications that are currently available. Dravet syndrome is not a form of epilepsy your child may ‘out grow’ it will not only be with them their entire life it will affect every aspect of their daily lives, and unless more effective treatments are found these children face a significantly diminished quality of life.
Though controversial in both the medical and political arenas a new treatment has been showing great promise in treating this very serious condition, marijuana. More specifically a specific component of marijuana known as cannabidoil or CBD. This component of the marijuana plant does not produce the psychoactivity that the THC does. For years a group of brothers have been cross-breeding a particular strain of marijuana that is high in CBD but low in THC. Because children with Dravet syndrome are young and unable to “smoke” the marijuana to get the benefit the CBD is extracted from the leafs of the plant using alcohol. This produces an oil which can then be measured and given to children either in food or under their tongue. In most cases children that have been unresponsive to all other treatments respond almost immediately to this new treatment.
One of the biggest issues with this new treatment is the lack of “scientific evidence” and along with that is the social stigma that has been created around marijuana. Scientific studies cost millions of dollars and take many years before a new medication can be considered for market significantly impacting the road to legitimacy for future use of marijuana for medical purposes.