momdoes
Would you give your sick child, Marijuana?
by momdoes
July 10, 2013 at 12:44 PM

Zaki Jackson was 6 months old when doctors diagnosed him with a form of epilepsy so severe that it sparked as many as 250 seizures a day.

For years his mom, Heather Jackson, feared for his life. “He would stop breathing,” she told NBC chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman. “All the air leaves his lungs and he does not take another breath until that seizure is over.”

After 10 years and 17 medications, Zaki wasn’t getting any better. Then, finally, his doctor wrote a prescription for a medication that calmed the electrical storms in Zaki’s brain. The surprise was that it wasn’t for a standard anti-seizure medication -- it was a prescription for marijuana.

Zaki’s case isn’t unusual as it may seem. Eighteen states, plus Washington, D.C., allow use of medical marijuana. A number of them provide prescriptions to children, with parental supervision, to treat a host of ills, ranging from autism to cancer to seizures.

Critics, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, argue that the remedy hasn’t been clinically tested in kids and might have some long-term ramifications.

Zaki’s parents were surprised at first and a bit taken aback. “We are Christians,” Jackson said. “We are conservative. And we’re using medical marijuana. That’s a kind of big hump for people to get over. Despite the stigma associated with cannabis, we owed it to Zaki to give it a try.”

Jackson said the results were immediate and stunning. “I probably stared at him for a good three hours after his first dose and then I fell asleep. I didn’t feel any seizures after his first dose,” his mother said.

In fact, it’s been eight months since Zaki’s last seizure and he's finally starting to do normal kid activities, like ride a swing.

Zaki's pot is provided specifically for him by a team of brothers who legally grow medical marijuana. It has been bred to have low levels of TCH, but higher levels of another cannabinoid called cannabidiol, or CBD.

While both cannabinoids impact pain, nausea and seizures, CBD isn’t psychoactive, said Dr. Margaret Gedde of the Clinicians’ Institute for Cannabis Medicine. That means that kids using this type of marijuana won’t get high.

Cannabinoids work by hijacking normal brain circuitry.

In other words, the cannabinoids in pot are very similar to substances our own brains naturally make, called endocannabinoids. These substances serve to quiet excessive activity, whether it’s in the immune system, in the gut or in the nervous system, Gedde explained to NBCNews.com.

When cells become overactive, a switch is thrown and endocannabinoids are released. Once they lock on to receptors in the brain, “a message is sent to tell the cells to calm down,” she said. “It’s a balancing system and it’s what keeps seizures from happening in healthy brains. In these kids the system is overwhelmed. It needs a little extra help.”

That’s where the pot comes in. For Zaki, it’s delivered in a syrup that he takes each day, which contains an extract of purified cannabis oil that is high in CBD, Gedde said.

While the drug seems to be working miracles for Zaki, some doctors believe its safety in children needs to be tested in clinical trials.

“I worry that we just don’t know enough about it,” said Dr. Sharon Levy, of the Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School. “I think they’re putting their child at risk of long-term consequences of marijuana use that we don’t fully understand.”

There are plenty of examples of highly touted therapies that turned out to be ineffective, or in some cases downright harmful.

“A couple of generations ago physicians were recommending tobacco as a good method of relaxation or to relieve stress,” Levy said. “It seems unbelievable now.”

While clinical trials are all well and good, there are children like Zaki who need help right now, Gedde said, adding “medicine existed before the Food and Drug Administration.”

While there may still be some questions about the impact of marijuana on growing brains, “this is a substance that’s been used for thousands of years and it has a known safety profile,” Gedde said. “And there’s a long history of women using it in pregnancy. If there was some terrible defect that came up in children exposed in utero, we’d know about it by now.”

Ultimately, for a child like Zaki with a dangerous condition, even approved anti-seizure drugs can cause side effects, Gedde said.

For the Jacksons, it was an easy decision.

“Medical marijuana is definitely saving Zaki’s life,” his mother Heather said. “It’s saving his life and it’s giving him a quality of life."

 

Would you give it to your child if they were sick? At what age would you consider giving it to them?

Replies

  • frndlyfn
    July 10, 2013 at 12:48 PM

    I think if the growers can customize the plant for the person's needs, it is a good thing to try.  I know people who have used tobacco as a relaxant and it does work in that fashion since it is a depressant.  The bad side effects outweighs any good though for tobacco.  I do not think there has been enough studying of marijuana in a medical setting to know one way or the other.

    I am glad this particular child has been able to get relief through an unconventional treatment. I do not see it as pot using since it is in syrup form and not smoked.

  • delilahsmom1177
    July 10, 2013 at 12:50 PM

    If it was that bad yes. I smoke medically but would not give it to my child unless the last resort and something like this with low THC levels. My SO has sezuires and cannabus helps. We have been together 2 1/2 years and he has had 2 sezuries and they were not that bad. this little boy deserves a life and thanks to cannabis he can have it.

  • delilahsmom1177
    July 10, 2013 at 12:51 PM

    cannabis can be comsued in many different ways. It is still cannabis.

    Quoting frndlyfn:

    I think if the growers can customize the plant for the person's needs, it is a good thing to try.  I know people who have used tobacco as a relaxant and it does work in that fashion since it is a depressant.  The bad side effects outweighs any good though for tobacco.  I do not think there has been enough studying of marijuana in a medical setting to know one way or the other.

    I am glad this particular child has been able to get relief through an unconventional treatment. I do not see it as pot using since it is in syrup form and not smoked.


  • Megan11587
    July 10, 2013 at 12:52 PM
    I absolutely would.
  • blue123244
    July 10, 2013 at 12:53 PM

    being sick is not like having seizures, sick no I wouldnt,  but it seems to have been really affective for zak 250 seizures a day is a horrible quality of life and can also lead to severe regression in children that being said he may need brain surgery which is a really scary thought I know - such a hard decision

  • Aislinn
    by Aislinn
    July 10, 2013 at 12:54 PM

     Hmmm. Would I give my child a medication from Big Pharma, that probably has a list of side effects the length of my forearm or would I use a plant that has very little side effects and has never been a primary cause of death, which even Advil and Tylenol cannot say, not even close. Hmmm.. Let me think about that one. Yes. In a heart beat. The "doctors" have no issues shoving drugs down peoples throats that have not been properly tested in clinical trials, but marijuana? We just don't KNOW. Bullshit they do not know. They just know their kick backs get really small when they do NOT come from Big Phrama. America, wake up, please.

  • Aislinn
    by Aislinn
    July 10, 2013 at 12:57 PM



    Quoting frndlyfn:

    I think if the growers can customize the plant for the person's needs, it is a good thing to try.  I know people who have used tobacco as a relaxant and it does work in that fashion since it is a depressant.  The bad side effects outweighs any good though for tobacco.  I do not think there has been enough studying of marijuana in a medical setting to know one way or the other.

    I am glad this particular child has been able to get relief through an unconventional treatment. I do not see it as pot using since it is in syrup form and not smoked.


     Um, what now? That does not make much sense, at all. How can people form opinions when you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about?  

  • autiovisual
    July 10, 2013 at 1:03 PM

    No no no. Linked to irregular heart bbeat, can be fatal. Have lost many friends who continued to smoke in advanced years. fifty is too young to die of heart failure. Perhaps a liquid form containing compounds for a cancer patient but medical stuff is not the same as what is sold on street today which is many times stronger than pot in the sixties-seventies. Also linked to apathy. 

  • momdoes
    by momdoes
    July 10, 2013 at 1:57 PM

    BUMP!

  • momdoes
    by momdoes
    July 10, 2013 at 4:31 PM

    BUMP!