Medical Marijuana For ADHD
In the Peace in Medicine Healing Center at Sebastopol, the products on display include dried marijuana - featuring brands such as Kryptonite, Voodoo Daddy and Train Wreck - and medicinal snacks arrayed below a signal saying, "Keep Out of Reach of Your Mother."
Many Bay Area doctors who recommend medical marijuana for their patients said in recent interviews that their customer base had expanded to include teenagers with psychiatric conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
"It's not everybody's medicine, but for some, it can make a profound difference," said Valerie Corral, a creator of the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana, a patients' collective in Santa Cruz that has two dozen minors as registered clients.
Because California does not require doctors to report cases involving medical marijuana, no reliable data exist 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. Bay Area doctors have been at the forefront of the fierce debate about medical marijuana, winning tolerance for people with grave illnesses like terminal cancer and AIDS. Yet as these doctors use their discretion more liberally, such support - even here - may be harder to muster, especially 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?' " asked Stephen Hinshaw, the chairman of the psychology department at the University of California, Berkeley. He cited studies showing that tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, disrupts attention, memory and concentration - functions already compromised in people with the attention-deficit disorder.
Advocates are just as adamant, though they are in a distinct minority. "It's safer than aspirin," Dr. Talleyrand said. He and other marijuana advocates maintain that it is also safer than methylphenidate (Ritalin), the stimulant prescription drug most often used to treat A.D.H.D.. That drug has documented potential side effects including insomnia, depression, facial tics and stunted growth.
In 1996, voters approved a ballot proposition making California the first state to legalize medical marijuana. Twelve other states have followed suit - allowing cannabis for several specified, serious conditions including cancer and AIDS - but only California adds the grab-bag phrase "for any other illness for which marijuana offers relief."
This has left those doctors willing to "urge" cannabis - in the Alice-in-Wonderland world of medical marijuana, they cannot legally prescribe it - with leeway that some use to a daring degree. "You can get it to get a backache," said Keith Stroup, the founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
Nonetheless, expanding its use among young people is controversial even among doctors who authorize medical marijuana.
Gene Schoenfeld, a doctor in Sausalito, said, "I would not do it for anyone under 21, unless they have a life-threatening issue such as cancer or AIDS."
Dr. Schoenfeld added, "It's detrimental to teens who chronically use this, and when it is being used clinically, that implies chronic use."
Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said she was especially worried about the chance of dependence - a risk she said was already high among teenagers and individuals with attention-deficit disorder.
Counterintuitive as it may look, however, patients and physicians are reporting that marijuana helps relieve some of the symptoms, especially the anxiety and anger that so often accompany A.D.H.D.. The disease was diagnosed in more than 4.5 million children in the United States, in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Scientists have linked the use of marijuana by teens to greater risk of psychosis and schizophrenia to get individuals genetically predisposed to those illnesses. However, one 2008 report in the journal Schizophrenia Research indicated that the incidence of mental health problems among teens with the disorder that used marijuana was lower than that of nonusers.
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