Despite polls showing that up to 80 percent of Americans think children shouldn’t use medical marijuana, evidence suggests it could truly help. Little research has been done on the topic so far, making most of the information regarding medical marijuana use for children anecdotal. But the stories of children whose lives have been drastically improved thanks to medical marijuana are powerful, and may provide incentive for more research on the subject — and could change attitudes towards its use.
One of the most well-known children to be helped by medical marijuana is Charlotte Figi, the six-year-old girl highlighted in a CNN report. Charlotte, for whom the strain of medical marijuana called “Charlotte’s Web” is named, suffered her first seizure at only three months old. By the time she was six, she was diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome, experiencing 300 grand mal seizures a week and unable to walk, talk or eat. Charlotte’s heart had stopped so many times, her family signed a do not resuscitate order.
In desperation, Charlotte’s parents turned to medical marijuana. Charlotte was initially put on an oil extract from R4 marijuana, and immediately the number of seizures decreased. For seven days, Charlotte had no seizures.
Charlotte is now on a regular dose of cannabis oil, added to her food twice a day. Her seizures have dropped from 300 per week to two or three per month. She is able to walk, talk and feed herself.
Emily Mirzabegian, like Charlotte Figi, was diagnosed with Dravet’s syndrome early in life. She had her first seizure at five months old and by the age of four, according to Time, was suffering hundreds of seizures every day. Despite being raised bilingual in English and Armenian, at the age of six she suddenly stopped talking. Her parents spent thousands of dollars traveling around the world desperate for a cure.
Emily’s father learned about Charlotte’s Web and began administering it to his daughter. Her results have been as dramatic as Charlotte Figi’s — down to four seizures a month from hundreds per day, and slowly regaining her verbal skills.
Lauren Scott was diagnosed with undifferentiated soft tissue sarcoma when she was only 13 years old. When the cancer spread to her lungs, she had difficulty breathing and suffered severe nausea from the morphine. Lauren then switched to medical cannabis to manage pain and anxiety while also increasing her appetite.
Caden Clark has Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome and suffers between 10 and 70 seizures a day (on bad days, he can suffer more than 100 seizures). After trying various treatments including medicine, dietary changes, and a lobectomy, Caden’s parents tried medical cannabis. Caden went from dozens of seizures every day to going four or five days in a row without a single seizure.
Maddie Gorman’s experiences are detailed on this blog, written by her mother. Maddie was less than a year old when she was diagnosed with leukemia and began chemotherapy. A year later, she began suffering seizures. Maddie was later diagnosed with Infantile Spasms and almost died one night in hospital after developing a fever and sepsis. Ultimately the seizures became severe episodes in which she would stop breathing and go limp — which Maddie sometimes suffered five times a day. Doctors diagnosed her with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome. Maddie’s parents tried everything, including brain surgery, but after three months Maddie’s seizures began again.
Eventually, her parents found out about medical marijuana and decided to move to Colorado. Within a week, the length and intensity of her seizures dropped. In a month, she was having fewer seizures. Now she is making progress developmentally, learning to talk and express herself again.
Stories like those of the five children above may have played a role in the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) updating its policy on medical marijuana earlier in 2015. The AAP now says it recognizes marijuana as a treatment for kids, “with life-limiting or severely debilitating conditions for whom current therapies are inadequate.” At the top of that list are severe seizure disorders. The AAP also recommends changing marijuana from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule II drug. The Scientist notes that that change would make it easier to study the medical effects of marijuana in humans.
Featured image Dank Depot