Last updated April 12, 2018 at 2:13 pm
Experts say it’s time to test the potential of medical cannabis for kids.
Trials on the potential to use marijuana to treat children with mental health symptoms are urgently needed in Australia to provide clarity and avoid bad decisions being made, according to two Victorian experts.
They warn that the current model for prescription of medical cannabis (MC) leaves determined or desperate parents having to either persuade doctors to prescribe it even without strong evidence that it works, or get it themselves illegally.
Paediatrician Dr Daryl Efron from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, and neurologist Dr Jeremy Freeman from the University of Melbourne, argue that MC has potential as a therapeutic option for treating disorders such as autism and ADHD but there is no firm evidence to support this and, as such, paediatricians should “counsel caution”.
Writing in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, they note that its use to treat children and adolescents with psychiatric problems has been discussed by mainstream media and a number of social media groups are advocating its use for conditions such as autism.
“Some parents report that they give cannabis products to their children to help with their behaviour and increasingly, Australian parents of children with developmental disabilities and/or mental health disorders are asking their paediatricians if MC treatment is advisable and whether they can assist them in obtaining it for their child,” the authors say.
“The American Academy of Pediatrics has highlighted the need for further research into the therapeutic uses of cannabinoids in children and adolescents, a position supported by a recent systematic review.”
Developmental and behavioural disorders represent the largest group of diagnoses managed by Australian paediatricians and mental health symptoms in this population are a major contributor to functional impairments and reduced quality of life.
They are also difficult to treat. As many patients may not be amenable to psychological interventions, environmental modification and medication are the main strategies available.
“There has been little drug discovery work in the field of child and adolescent mental health for many years, and there is an urgent need to develop safe and effective therapeutics for this vulnerable patient group,” the authors say. “Medical cannabis may be one such treatment.”
The paper published in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health.