Additionally, the board voted to recommend that the state add autism to the list of qualifying conditions, but rejected expanding the program to add ADHD, PTSD, bipolar disorder, and ganglioglioma.
Unfortunately, Iowa’s low-THC approach leaves behind thousands of patients who could benefit from medical marijuana.
Check out our full summary of Iowa’ low-THC program here. Five dispensaries across the state will be open to registered patients on December 1. You can also find a wealth of information on medical marijuana here.
My recent post about medical marijuana and young patients got picked up by the folks over at OpposingViews.com. And that prompted writer Katherine Ellison, whose New York Times story I'd taken issue with to post the following response:
a couple corrections for you
Hi, Bruce --
For the record, my byline is Katherine, not Kathy. And I guess I can understand your frustration at not having a story that reflects your advocate's view of marijuana as a safe , cure-all drug, appropriate for all ages. However, I stand by my reporting, which I think was a responsible effort to bring awareness to an increasing problem of irresponsible doctors given way too much leeway with an untested drug on adolescents.
- kathyellison November 25, 2009 10:28AM
Oh dear. I generally don't like to get into fights with reporters, but I'm grateful that Opposing Views allowed me to post the following response:
First, Katherine, I apologize for using your name as you signed it on your emails to me rather than as published in your byline. Nevertheless, I find it frustrating that you appear to be deliberately misinterpreting both what I've written here and what I said on the phone during our lengthy conversation.
You know full well that I don't consider marijuana a cure-all and that I do not expect you to endorse my opinions in print. I do expect you, in reporting a scientific issue, to actually address the relevant science in a way that will enlighten readers.
Your story failed to explain meaningful scientific evidence provided to you by both me and Paul Armentano suggesting a positive effect of marijuana on ADHD as well as the biochemical basis for such an effect being plausible. You included a scientifically nonsensical quote from Stephen Hinshaw calling marijuana for ADHD "one of the worst ideas of all time" because marijuana disrupts attention and memory in normal people. But we know that the brains of ADHD patients don't work like those of normal people -- which is why stimulants like Ritalin have a calming effect, the exact opposite of their effect on most of us. Did you even bother to ask Hinshaw this obvious followup question?
You also included a cavalier quote from Edward M. Hallowell claiming that marijuana use "can lead to a syndrome in which all the person wants to do all day is get stoned, and they do nothing else" -- without bothering to note that this so-called "amotivational syndrome" has been debunked again and again. One example that I sent you, and which you apparently ignored, was the 1999 Institute of Medicine report commissioned by the White House, which states on pages 107-108, "When heavy marijuana use accompanies these symptoms, the drug is often cited as the cause, but no convincing data demonstrate a causal relationship between marijuana smoking and these behavioral characteristics." Many other expert reviews have come to the same conclusion.
I am not asking you to agree with me or to tout marijuana as a cure-all, which it manifestly is not. As a longtime health journalist myself, all I am asking is for you to do your homework as a reporter.
Lately there has been a small burst of media fascination with what by most accounts is a rare occurrence: Use of medical marijuana recommended by a physician by patients under 18. Any psychoactive drug, including marijuana, should be used with caution in children, but there is no reason that these infrequent cases should be shocking. Indeed, they should be taken as signposts on the road to urgently-needed research.
Sad as it is to contemplate, kids do get deadly illnesses like cancer and AIDS. Medical marijuana dispensary operator Charles Lynch faced an enhanced federal prison sentence for providing medical marijuana to 17-year-old cancer patient Owen Beck, who survived his cancer partly thanks to Lynch’s help, and who attempted to testify on Lynch’s behalf but was barred from doing so. And millions of young people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have been prescribed stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall, whose side effects can include psychotic symptoms and interference with growth, not to mention sudden death when used by patients with some preexisting heart conditions.
Unfortunately, a story in Sunday’s New York Times looking at marijuana as a treatment for young people with ADHD managed to avoid shedding much light on the issue. Instead, the focus seemed to be on sensational quotes ("worst idea ever," "safer than aspirin") rather than a serious look at the science.
Writer Kathy Ellison did briefly reference a study in the journal Schizophrenia Research, but without properly explaining it. Of the 25 young people with ADHD in this study, the marijuana users scored healthier than non-users on nearly every measure of mental functioning, including specific measures of hyperactivity and disorganization. This was particularly striking because in the same study a separate group of individuals at genetic risk for schizophrenia were made worse by marijuana. The published study includes a discussion of the biochemical mechanisms by which marijuana might help ADHD. This is consistent with published case reports that have found a beneficial of THC on ADHD.
Meanwhile, ABC’s “Good Morning America” did a more respectful job in reporting on the mom of an autistic child who says that a small amount of marijuana, administered under a doctor’s care, has literally saved her child’s life. Others have told similar stories.
We don’t know nearly enough yet to state definitively that marijuana is helpful for youthful ADHD and autism. But we do know enough to say that proper research is urgently needed, and that this is a serious enough issue that the media need to treat it seriously.