Since the 1960s, the threat of “reefer madness” created by the Drug Enforcement Administration in the USA has insisted that cannabis, in any form, is one of the greatest dangers facing children.
The very idea of giving a child weed seems utterly alien to most people – but what if there are good reasons we are overlooking for giving our children weed? Are we depriving them of medicine?
Why could children benefit from cannabis?
When you think of cannabis as only a recreational drug, you forget about the medicinal benefits – just because the drug has the potential for recreational use, does that mean we shouldn’t give it to our children?
Cannabis has two main compounds that are significant to us: THC and CBD. THC is the psychoactive “let’s get high” compound that is utilized primarily for recreational use, whereas CBD is something else entirely.
Years ago, the idea of using cannabis as a medicinal treatment for children would have been utterly alien because virtually all weed was bred to be high in THC. Nowadays, however, you can purchase CBD-rich strains of cannabis that have less than 0.02% THC, allowing you to ingest purely for the purpose of treating medical conditions.
What conditions can be treated by cannabis?
Due to stringent laws against all forms of cannabis for the last century and a half, research into the benefits of cannabis have been sadly limited.
However, thanks to slowly relaxing tensions on the world stage, more and more countries are allowing their scientists to explore the benefits of cannabis to treat medical conditions.
Perhaps the most famous is epilepsy. Epilepsy is a condition that affects the brain and causes frequent seizures due to bursts of neuro-electrical activity. This affects a huge number of people, and has a varying level of risk.
Perhaps most at risk, however, are children. Epilepsy tends to either begin during young childhood or after the age of 60, but for children, it is so much worse.
A child is incapable of properly looking after themselves at the best of times – it becomes far worse when they have a medical condition that requires continuous care and watchfulness.
In a recent study published in the Journal of Epilepsy Research, scientists discovered that CBD, acting as a CBR antagonist, served as an inhibitor to epilepsy, forestalling seizures and managing to suppress the symptoms of the condition.
During various experiments, trial doses of CBD were administered to young children with epilepsy, and several studies showed that it works extremely well at suppressing the condition.
Of course, as with all medications, there were some side effects. However, the side effects were mostly mild, such as light drowsiness, diarrhea and a reduced appetite.
Considering the alternative, these side effects seem a small price to pay if it means finding natural, safe relief from as serious a condition as epilepsy.
Alongside epilepsy, there are a number of other conditions that benefit from CBD, even indirectly.
This is due to the fact that CBD interacts with the body’s Endocannabinoid system, which aids the body in properly healing itself. Through careful administration of select dosages of CBD, it is possible to promote cellular regrowth, suppress inflammation, and help the body repair itself at a faster rate, as discovered in a study conducted by the International Cannabinoid Research Society.
What are the risks of giving low-THC cannabis to children?
One of the most commonly attributed risks with giving our children cannabis is the effects it can have on their cognitive development.
Children and teenagers’ brains are still developing, so the thinking is that ingesting any form of drug that affects your brain chemistry could lead to a decline in IQ development.
Many publications and anti-drug campaigners used slogans along the lines of “Weed Makes You Stupid!” but the current medical thought tends to disagree.
At the onset, some studies do agree that cannabis use has a correlation with an IQ reduction among teenagers, as discovered in a study conducted by Joanna Jacobus and Susan Tapert. They discovered there exists a correlation between consistent cannabis use and low IQ scores, as well as gradually failing test scores.
However, more recent studies, such as one conducted by Mokrysz et al., found that those previously mentioned had failed to take into account other contributing factors.
According to the study, it is generally true that if a teenager is taking cannabis as a recreational drug, purchasing it illegally, then they are more likely to also be taking alcohol and cigarettes on a regular basis. This means that any study basing its findings on cannabis usage also needs to take into account the effects of alcohol and cigarettes as well.
Mokrysz et al. found that, when you remove the usage of other narcotics and only base it on those that only take cannabis, there is no noticeable decline in IQ.
Alongside this, an additional study published by the Society for the Study of Addiction found that IQ decline or a reduction in executive function had more to do with family background factors than a teenager’s cannabis use.
This again goes back to the fact that, if a teenager is imbibing an illegal narcotic, they are more likely to have a troubled home life or lack of parental support, which then tends to lead towards lower IQs and test scores.
What all this means is that the use of cannabis is likely not in any significant way linked to any form of cognitive impairment, meaning you can rest assured that your children probably won’t suffer mental degeneration or low IQ scores.
The risk of cannabis addiction, however, does of course exist – despite the claims of many stoners throughout history, addiction to cannabis is certainly possible, though it is not addiction in the traditional sense. Harder narcotics such as opioids or cocaine cause physical dependencies, whereas cannabis can simply create a psychological addiction – similar to addictions to sports or playing too many video games.
This doesn’t mean it’s not serious: any form of addiction, especially in young people, deserves research and recognition.
However, in a study published in the Journal of Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, fewer than 10% of cannabis users develop addiction, and the addiction to cannabis occurs not as a result of the cannabis itself, but due to already present factors within their lives. For example, similar to the reduction in IQ development for teenagers, those who have a bad home life or mental problems already existent within them might turn more heavily to narcotics as a way of coping.
Most significantly, however, the reason psychological addiction begins for a small percentage of cannabis users is due to the psychoactive effects of THC.
When considering the medical benefits of cannabis, we are chiefly concerned with the potentials within CBD, its non-psychoactive component. In short, the use of CBD has no change of developing any kind of dependency or addiction, simply because it neither contains physical dependency-inducing compounds, nor produces any kind of psychological effect that you can become attached to.
Final Thoughts: Should Parents be Giving Their Kids Cannabis?
Should we be giving our children and teenagers cannabis – even if for medical purposes? Well, we certainly don’t want every child and teenager taking cannabis 24/7 – of course not.
The most important thing is we try and clear up certain facts that have for decades been obscured by fiction. The idea that cannabis shouldn’t be given as a medicine to children is pervasive throughout society – too many people truly believe that if you give a child cannabis in any form, they’ll become addicts and suffer massive mental degradation. This is simply not true.
In fact, the use of CBD can help countless children with serious medical complications, all with limited to no side effects. This is especially significant when children are actively suffering, as is the case recently with Billy Caldwell, a boy who had managed to go 300 days seizure-free thanks to his CBD medication, yet had it taken off of him at customs, as well as being refused further prescription doses by his general practitioner.
All in all, we need to become more educated about CBD, its medical benefits and the studies that back it up. Otherwise, we run the risk of leaving countless children without medical options, and forcing them to continue suffering.