CBD and Children

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While it may seem counter-intuitive, the most rapidly-increasing and effective application of CBD is for the therapeutic treatment of children.

State Rep. Allen Peake of Georgia meets with Haleigh Cox (b. 2010), who suffers from uncontrollable seizures. Her family may have to leave Georgia so that she can receive CBD medicine

It was not long ago that Cannabis was supposedly off-limits for people under eighteen (or twenty-one in some localities), long after Nancy Reagan told children to “Just Say No!” This was before the discovery of the endocannabinoid system, with which all humans are born; that discovery revealed that cannabinoids are also produced inside our bodies. There are specific receptor sites in our nervous systems into which only cannabinoids will fit and endocannabinoids trigger physiological responses that are necessary for health and well-being.
Endocannabinoids made by our body have different shapes and functions than the cannabinoids made by Cannabis plants (herbal cannabinoids). Cannabinoids, endogenous or exogenous, link into two receptor sites, CB1 and CB2, located throughout our body. THC binds primarily to the CB1 receptor site, where it produces its psychoactive effects. Cannabidiol (CBD) binds to the CB2 receptor site, reducing the feelings of pain and the impulses of the body that produce muscle spasms.
There are other physiologically-active substances in Cannabis, namely terpenes and flavonoids. Patients who use pharmaceutically-produced THC will claim that its effects are not as helpful as the total plant extract because pharmaceutical THC does not contain these flavonoids and terpenes. This phenomenon is known as the entourage effect. Science has yet to discover how the chemicals within the plant’s trichomes support its medicinal actions in the body, but research continues. The anti-spasmodic effects of CBD are where children became involved.
Dravet Syndrome, also known as Severe Myoclonic Epilepsy of Infancy (SMEI), is a crippling, sometimes fatal form of epilepsy that affects children from birth. Seizures begin in the first year of life and do not abate; there is currently no known cure. Later in life a child is not able to develop properly – physically, mentally and emotionally – because these muscular seizures occur constantly. Physicians try their best to prevent epileptic seizures, which can be fatal, using benzodiazepine (BZD) tranquilizers, anti-spasmodic and bi-polar medications. However, children treated with drugs still have 100 to 500 seizures per day.
Even though physicians are unable to prevent seizures with pharmaceutical drugs, they are reluctant to try Cannabis as a treatment, as it is classified as a Schedule I drug by the United States government. This classification means that Cannabis has no medicinal value and a physician would take a huge risk of legal action by recommending this treatment for a child. The drugs that doctors use can be as fatal as a seizure because the pharmaceutical drugs affect the brain stem, the area of the brain that controls respiration and heartbeat. Cannabinoids, however, do not affect this brain function. This is why death from Cannabis has not been recorded.
One of the first children to obtain relief with cannabidiol was Charlotte Figi (b. 2006). Charlotte was experiencing 200 to 300 seizures per day and was taking twenty medications. Her father, Matt, read of the success that parents had relieving the seizures by using Cannabis tincture on children with the disease. Her mother, Paige, found a strain of Cannabis that was high in CBD and low in THC concentration. While undesirable at the dispensary where she found it because of its lack of psychoactive effects, it was the perfect medicine for Charlotte. Her parents were not looking for the high; they were looking for relief of her seizures. Immediately, Charlotte’s seizures went from hundreds per day to one per week. Charlotte began to develop as a normal child. Her parents no longer lived in fear of another life-threatening attack.
The Cannabis they found was grown in Colorado by the Stanley brothers. These three young men grew Cannabis for the medi-weed industry in the state. They had strong, compassionate feelings that led them to grow Cannabis for sick patients but were reluctant to grow Cannabis for a child. The brothers realized that a high-CBD strain was affective in treating Dravet and decided to grow a specific variety and name it for this young girl, Charlotte. It is now a strain called Charlotte’s Web.

Cannabidiol oil has been extremely effective in reducing seizures in kids suffering from Dravet Syndrome

Another child, Vivian Wilson, was born with Dravet Syndrome in 2011. Vivian experienced 300 to 500 seizures per day. The family lived in New Jersey, which had a medical Cannabis use law in effect in 2013; that was when the Wilsons began reading on the Internet about the successes that parents were having relieving their children’s seizures with Cannabis.
The outgoing Democratic governor had signed the medical use bill into law, but the incoming Republican governor, Chris Christie, did his best to suppress access in his state. There was only one dispensary allowed in New Jersey and a high-CBD strain was not available there, as the dispensary did not anticipate receiving a supply of this particular medicine for another year.
The Wilsons could not wait. They made arraignments to travel with Vivian to Colorado so that she could try CBD for her uncontrollable seizures. What a decision they were forced to make! The visual stimulation of air travel could exacerbate the occurrence and severity of Vivian’s seizures. While cannabidiol was helping to alleviate seizures for most children, it was not a guaranteed cure. The trip may be for naught.
The Wilsons were met at the airport by one of the Stanley brothers. Their commitment is so strong to this cause that they wanted to be personally involved. Vivian’s father rented an apartment to establish residency for Vivian, making her eligible to use Cannabis under Colorado’s medi-weed regulations. Vivian was seen by two doctors, who authorized her use. With her first dose, the occurrence of her seizures decreased. While her parents were nervous about her potential response, she was helped the same as most other children.
The Wilsons became one of several families known as marijuana refugees. These families are forced to flee the state where they live and move to Colorado, where they are able to give their children the medicine they need to survive and thrive.
Legislation is now pending in many locations to classify CBD as a generic plant oil, removing the stigma of Cannabis use among children. One day soon, let us hope this is not necessary in the United States, so-called ‘Land of the Free’.


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