Medical cannabis has recently come under the spotlight as countries throughout the world enter a race for legalization. Studies are constantly being done on the effectiveness and the uses of medical cannabis and as our technology improves so does our understanding of cannabis and its many benefits.
It is a well-documented fact that cannabis has been used by many cultures throughout the world for its medicinal properties. We are only just beginning to understand just how many ways this plant can help and heal us.
To understand how this plant is helping paediatric patients, we need to take a look at the science behind cannabis.
Cannabis and the Endocannabinoid System
There are medicinal compounds found in cannabis that interact with our bodies called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a system responsible for maintaining a balance of chemical messages in the signals sent between our cells.
Our bodies produce chemicals called endocannabinoids, endocannabinoids are similar to the cannabinoids found in cannabis. Endocannabinoids maintain the homeostasis in our cells. Diseases are often the result of one Endocannabinoid system.
Scientist's only begun to understand the vital role of the ECS in 1988. Conditions associated with our ECS were widely misunderstood and mistreated until we gained a greater understanding of it.
There is growing evidence that children with psychiatric disorders, epilepsy and autism have dysfunction within their ECS. When the endocannabinoid system isn’t functioning normally, an imbalance in the chemical messages being sent by the brain result in seizures, abnormal behaviours and atypical thought processes.
A Dysfunctional ECS
Studies suggest that for a developing brain to mature properly a healthy functioning endocannabinoidal system is vital. Additional studies need to be done to establish the long-term effects of cannabis on children who have a dysfunctional ECS.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the medicinal compound found in cannabis that is used to treat patients suffering from a dysfunctional ECS. CBD is the non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis that has many known medicinal benefits and is used as an anticonvulsant, antioxidant and anti-anxiety, antipsychotic, anti-inflammatory as well as for treating cancer. It's important to note that although there are no studies on the long-term effects of CBD on children, there is not one reported case of CBD having any negative effects.
Doctors that have been using CBD to treat minors who previously had very little hope with uncontrolled seizures, developmental delay and cognitive dysfunction are now seeing massive improvements in their patients. CBD is also known for having no adverse side effects – unlike most modern day prescribed medications.
Many of these patients are able to stop using pharmaceutical medications that either wasn't working effectively or had adverse side effects.
It is now believed that Epilepsy is caused by a deficiency in the endocannabinoid system which allows the neurotransmitters in your brain to flow in an overexcited manner giving rise to the abnormal firing of brain cells. Evidence also suggests that there is neuroinflammation in a seizing brain. CBD reduces the excitement of the neurotransmitters and is a natural anti-inflammatory making it the perfect treatment of Epilepsy. It is important to note that it doesn't necessarily work for everyone.
Autistic children generally have communication issues, repetitive behaviours and social challenges.
The FDA has approved two medications for children with autism. These medications are both antipsychotic and treat the irritability associated with autistic behaviour. These medications can have adverse side-effects and are not always effective in the treatment of paediatric autism. More and more parents are opting for something natural, cannabis oil high in CBD low in THC- the psychoactive compound in medical cannabis.
The endocannabinoid system regulates emotional responses, anxiety, behavioural reactivity, social interactions and the boosts one's immune system – all of which are affected by autism in one way or another. Evidence links autism with a deficiency of the ECS. Doctors treating paediatric patients for autism have found that the use of CBD improved social interactions, anxiety and repetitive behaviours in autistic patients.
Parents of children with cancer often seek medical cannabis oil to treat the symptom of chemotherapy and radiation.
In animal studies, cannabinoids have proven to inhibit tumour growth, cause cancer cells to perform apoptosis and inhibit the growth of new blood vessels in tumours.
CBD has also been proven to enhance the effects of some chemotherapy agents. Cannabinoids are proving to be a safe natural medication for pediatric patients with cancer. And it improves their quality of life.
Medical cannabis is proving to be effective in treating pain, nausea, epilepsy and autism as well as cancer. Despite the lack of conclusive in-depth studies on the effectiveness of cannabis in treating children more and more parents are opting for the natural alternative to western medication where side effects often outweigh the benefits.