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September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month: Here’s How Medical Marijuana Can Help Ohio Pediatric Cancer Patients

September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month: Here’s How Medical Marijuana Can Help Ohio Pediatric Cancer Patients

Medical marijuana and its place in pediatric medicine has become an increasingly charged topic. As more states continue to legalize and create medical marijuana programs, more people are considering the safety and efficacy of recommending medical marijuana to minors. If you are considering medical marijuana for your child, the team at DocMJ is here to help! We can be reached at (877) 899.3626 or through the Live Chat option on our website at DocMJ.com. On our website you can also find an easy eligibility survey, answers to frequently asked questions, pricing options and other informative blog posts.

Can Minors Get Medical Marijuana in Ohio?

Yes. In Ohio, there is no minimum age requirement. However, the under eighteen demographic makes up less than a quarter of a percent of total registered patients [1]. According to the Ohio Administrative Code, minors must also have the consent of their parent or legal representative. If the patient requires a caregiver, the parent may assume this role so long as they meet all of the requirements laid out in the Code. 

 

What are the Benefits of Medical Marijuana for Pediatric Patients?

Giving anything to a child can cause anxiety, especially when it is something as controversial as medical marijuana. There has been some evidence showing that there could be benefits to it, though. For example, one of the biggest reasons medical marijuana first gained public attention was the case of Charlotte Figi, a young girl who suffered from frequent seizures [2]. 

At the age of two, Charlotte was diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome, an exceedingly rare form of epilepsy that is notoriously hard to treat. The diagnosis led to experimentation with certain diets and pharmaceuticals. Later, Colorado approved Amendment 20, which made the state set up a medical marijuana program. When Charlotte was five, she began taking homemade CBD extracts. Miraculously, the number of seizures plummeted, and she was able to take on a largely normal life. The Charlotte’s Web strain of marijuana, known for its low THC concentration, is named after her and has gone on to help many other people in situations like hers. 

Of course, while Charlotte’s story is a great one, one experience is not enough to base such a big decision on, and this is where researchers and physicians step in. Regarding medical marijuana and cancer, there is a large amount of promising research finding that many patients can help fight some of their symptoms more effectively by adding medical marijuana to their regimen. Many patients with cancer have already started using medical marijuana to increase their quality of life, making it the fourth most common qualifying condition among Ohio users [1]. 

In the case of pediatric cancer, special care is given to distinguish research done on infants, children, and adolescents due the large differences in body composition, hormone levels, and cognitive development. That is to say that what works in one age group may not necessarily be true in another. One reason this may be is the fluctuating numbers of key endocannabinoid receptors, namely CB1 and CB1, throughout one’s life. Moreover, it has been found that the endocannabinoid system itself may play an important part in brain development [3].

Like adult cancer patients, pediatric cancer patients struggle with many of the side effects, not only from the disease, but the treatment as well. Chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV) is a common side effect for many and is a tough one to palliate. For CINV, dronabinol has been developed to reduce nausea and is a man-made derivative of THC, a primary cannabinoid produced by marijuana. It was first FDA approved way back in 1985 and has since become a commonly prescribed for both its anti-nausea and appetite-increasing properties. In pediatric patients, dronabinol was found to have positive results in sixty percent of participants in a 2015 study [4]. This result came after a study from 2000 that found more palliative care needed to be given to pediatric cancer patients [5]. 

Another common side effect of cancer treatment is skeletal muscle loss, commonly called wasting. This can be caused by the cancer itself or the treatment making it uncomfortable to eat. Generally, when this is occurring in a patient, a physician will try to prescribe medication that increases appetite, as large changes in body weight can cause its own set of problems. In adults, THC has been found to be an effective appetite stimulant for those with advanced cancer [6]. Therefore, it isn’t uncommon to find pediatric cancer patients taking high-THC marijuana, or in some cases dronabinol, to stimulate their appetites. 

 

What do Doctors Think? 

By and large, pediatric doctors also see the benefits of medical marijuana in certain patients. A 2016 study on the perspective of pediatricians on the use of medical marijuana in children with cancer found that most providers were willing to consider medical marijuana and get frequent requests for its use [7]. The study also points out that much of the lack of support is due to the scarcity of specific research on the potential side effects of marijuana use on developing bodies and how specific dosages are still unknown.

The study also showed that 92% of those who responded were willing to help children with cancer gain access to medical marijuana. The same percentage (92%) also approved of using medical marijuana to manage symptoms. Providers also most approved or oral forms of medical marijuana (89% approval) and over half (63%) were not concerned about potential substance abuse. Only 2% of those who responded felt that medical marijuana was never appropriate. 

 

In Conclusion

Currently, the research on pediatric use of medical marijuana in cancer patients is exciting and shows that there may be room for medical marijuana in many patient’s lives as a form of palliative medicine. The ability to fight nausea and increase appetites in cancer patients is an important part of increasing their quality of life, especially in advanced stages. 

Physicians are generally positive in their views on medical marijuana, and most would likely help their patients gain access when necessary. On the other hand, there is also a need for more research into the changes and long-term effects brought on by adolescent marijuana use. If you, or someone you know has a child in need of a medical marijuana recommendation, we’re here to help you every step of the way. For more information about scheduling a pediatric exam, please speak with a DocMJ Patient Care Coordinator at (877) 899.3626. Don’t forget to ask about our pediatric discount!

 

Resources

[1] https://www.medicalmarijuana.ohio.gov/Documents/advisory-committee/Meeting%20Materials/2020-07%20(July)/MMAC%20Updates%20July%202020.pdf

[2] https://www.cnn.com/2013/08/07/health/charlotte-child-medical-marijuana/index.html

[3] https://www.nature.com/articles/npp2017143

[4] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26766935/

[5] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10655532/

[6] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8035251/

[7] https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/141/1/e20170559?sso=1&sso_redirect_count=1&nfstatus=401&nftoken=00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000&nfstatusdescription=ERROR%3A+No+local+token