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Marijuana Treatments Used for Pediatric Spinal Cord Injury Patients

Marijuana-Treatments-Used-for-Pediatric-Spinal-Cord-Injury-Patients-Blog-IMG.pngMarijuana has made headlines in recent years for its controversial legalization in several parts of the United States. Otherwise known as cannabis, this psychoactive mood-altering drug, which although is widely known for its use as a recreational substance, is also used to treat chronic pain and other ailments such as providing relief from chemotherapy.

Though it remains controversial, for many years, studies have demonstrated marijuana to provide analgesic (pain-relieving) and anti-emetic (anti-nausea) effects on various symptoms, hence the increased medical use.

A more recent adoption of the medical uses for marijuana is for a new bill that was passed in Connecticut this summer. Titled HB 5450, this bill will expand access effective October 2016 for terminally ill patients, or those suffering from extreme traumatic injuries such as spinal cord injury or cerebral palsy, to receive medical marijuana treatment.

Why use marijuana for medical purposes?

Cannabis has been used for medical treatment for hundreds of years. However, as it has also been regarded as an illicit substance, it’s medical use has been controversial in treating pain in children and young people. With the legalisation of cannabis so current in today’s society in some states, the conversation in regards to marijuana treatments for pediatric patients is gaining more and more momentum.

"Marijuana in its natural form is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man,” stated DEA Chief Administrative Law Judge, Francis L. Young, in a case for the legalization of marijuana back in 1988. He went on to say, “It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for the DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence in this record."

New developments in Connecticut’s medical marijuana program

Connecticut has made changes to its medical marijuana program in recent months, meaning that patients under 18 will be granted access to use cannabis as a method of treatment. Minors will need to be diagnosed with ‘terminal illness, an irreversible spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, or severe or intractable epilepsy.’ In addition to this, they must have two sets of recommendations from different doctors along with parental consent.

The program in Connecticut began in 2012, however this did not grant access for those under 18 years old; the only state with a legalized marijuana program with this exception. The new bill, signed in May by Governor Dannel Malloy, hopes to provide much needed treatments and relief for children and young adults suffering with chronic diagnoses. 

This change has been labelled as a ‘landmark victory’ for the caretakers of young patients who feel that medical marijuana treatments will benefit their loved ones more than previously used pharmaceuticals.

A key part of this bill update is that caregivers and physicians will no longer face any criminal or legal sanctions for administering marijuana to a patient with a qualifying illness in a hospital setting. It would seem that Connecticut and Maine are frontrunners in this movement towards a more lenient approach to medical marijuana programs, being the first two to offer their doctors and nurses this form of ‘immunity.’

What is the future of medical marijuana programs?

With the decriminalization of cannabis becoming a common talking point throughout America, and medical use becoming more prominent all over the country, the trajectory of the marijuana industry appears to be unstoppable; both recreationally and medically.

With research backing the positive effects of the substance, it seems that its use looks to become more widespread and indeed accepted in society. From a medical standpoint, the analgesic effects are proving to provide genuine changes to quality of life to those with chronic diseases and illnesses.

Now Connecticut and Maine have made the first move in protecting healthcare workers against punishments for administering marijuana to qualifying patients under the age of 18. Will other states follow by their lead?

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Topics: Spinal Cord Injury, Research, Treatment

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