With discussion concerning medical cannabis for therapeutic use in children increasing; the Canadian Paediatric Society has just released its position statement on the topic – and it’s rather cautious.
The statement appears to lean heavily toward application of what’s known as the “Precautionary Principle”; which is applied to scenarios with possible risks where scientific understanding is still incomplete in the opinion of a person or organisation taking a position.
The Society recognises that cannabis has been used for therapeutic purposes for thousands of years; and more recently has shown some indication of being of benefit in treating children with drug-resistant epilepsy – although it refers to this evidence is referred to as “sparse”.
The Society has a number of concerns. Among them, it says the effects of medical cannabis on children needs to be carefully evaluated over the long-term and believes medical evidence suggests its use may have significant adverse effects in children.
It cites this level of evidence as being “level 3”; meaning evidence has been obtained from well-designed controlled trials without randomization. This “evidence” appears to include the results of a small study a couple of years back on the cognitive effects of cannabis on users below 16 years of age.
However, that study didn’t focus on medical cannabis use specifically but on general use – substances with very different chemical profiles.
For example, cannabidiol (CBD), is a compound that has been identified as possibly being beneficial in treating epilepsy. CBD does not create a “high”; which comes from another cannabinoid, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). Cannabis consists of hundreds of cannabinoids; only some of which are currently considered therapeutic.
The Society is also opposed to children smoking medical marijuana – and they would likely have little opposition there. Medical cannabis can be administered in a number of different forms – tinctures, vaporizing oils, creams and even edibles.
The Society is also concerned with the possibility of medicinal marijuana gaining acceptance also impacting on the perception of cannabis for recreational use among adolescents.
“Strategies to discourage its recreational use among adolescents should be developed on models underway to discourage alcohol and tobacco use in this age group,” says part of the statement.
In its position statement, the Society outlines a number of recommendations for evaluation of medicinal cannabis in paediatrics.
The Canadian Paediatric Society’s position statement can be viewed in full here.