More and More Kids Being Prescribed Medical Marijuana
It seems like several Bay Area doctors who recommend medical marijuana for their patients made it public in recent interviews that their client base are expanding to include teenagers with psychiatric conditions including attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
“It’s not everybody’s medicine, but for some, it can make a profound difference,” said Valerie Corral, a founder of the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana, a patients’ collective in Santa Cruz who also has more than two dozen minors as registered clients some as young as fourteen.
The problem seems to be that California does not require doctors to report cases involving medical marijuana. There is no reliable data that exists for how many minors have been authorized to receive it. But Dr. Jean Talleyrand, who founded MediCann, a network in Oakland of 20 clinics who authorize patients to use the drug, said his staff members had treated as many as 50 patients ages 14 to 18 who had A.D.H.D.
These Bay Area doctors currently have been at the forefront of the debate that is taking place concerning medical marijuana. Though it gotten some tolerance for people with grave illnesses like terminal cancer and AIDS, it seems to be more difficult to be more understanding when it comes to using marijuana to treat adolescents with A.D.H.D.
“How many ways can one say one of the worst ideas of all time?’ ” said Stephen Hinshaw, who is the chairman of the psychology department at the University of California, Berkeley. He cited a variety of different studies showing that tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is the active ingredient in cannabis, disrupts attention, memory and concentration all which are already compromised in people with the attention deficit disorders.
Counterintuitive as it may seem, however, patients and doctors have been reporting that marijuana helps with some of the symptoms such as anxiety and anger that accompany A.D.H.D. The disorder has been diagnosed in more than 4.5 million children in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A recent University of Michigan study found that more than 40 percent of high school students had tried marijuana. “I don’t have a problem with that, as long as we can have our medical conversation,” Dr. Talleyrand said, adding that patients must have medical records to be seen by his doctors.
The Medical Board of California began investigating Dr. Talleyrand in the spring, said a board spokeswoman, Candis Cohen, after a KGO-TV report detailed questionable practices at MediCann clinics, which, the report said, had grossed at least $10 million in five years.
Dr. Talleyrand and his staff members are not alone in being willing to recommend marijuana for minors. In Berkeley, Dr. Frank Lucido said he was questioned by the medical board but ultimately not disciplined after he authorized marijuana for a 16-year-old boy with A.D.H.D. who had tried Ritalin unsuccessfully. Within a year of the marijuana treatment, he claimed the boy was getting better grades and was even elected president of his special-education class.
Some advocates, like Dr. Lester Grinspoon, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard University, suggest that medical marijuana’s stigma has less to do with questions of clinical efficacy and more to do with its association, in popular culture, with illicit pleasure and addiction.
Others, like Alberto Torrico of Fremont, the majority leader of the California Assembly, argue for more oversight in general. “The marijuana is a lot more powerful these days than when we were growing up and too much is being dispensed for non-medical reasons,” he said in an interview last week, bluntly adding, “any children being given medical marijuana is unacceptable.”