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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Medical Marijuana for Behavioral Health

Parents of children with developmental and behavioral problems, such as autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have been looking for help in unexpected places. Last year, there were reports that medical marijuana helped children suffering from epilepsy, which has led many to wonder if the drug could help kids with behavioral problems. However, some researchers believe that the cost of short term symptom relief may be greater than the reward down the road, Science Daily reports.

There is a lot of evidence that suggests there are harmful effects of regular marijuana use in the developing brain, and very little research to support using marijuana to treat children suffering from mental illness.

"Given the current scarcity of data, cannabis cannot be safely recommended for the treatment of developmental or behavioral disorders at this time," writes Scott Hadland, MD, MPH, John R. Knight, MD, and Sion Kim Harris, PhD of Boston Children's Hospital.

With the changing climate in America regarding the use of marijuana it is only natural that more people will seek the drug for a wide variety of treatments. But, without more marijuana research, using the drug prematurely could be detrimental.

"Children with severe ASD cannot communicate verbally and may relate to the world through loud, repetitive shrieking and hand-flapping that is very disruptive to their families and all those around them," comments Dr Knight, the study's senior author. "So my heart goes out to families who are searching for something, anything to help their child," he continues. "But in using medicinal marijuana they may be trading away their child's future for short-term symptom control."

The findings can be found in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics.

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