Thursday, November 29th, 2012
The story of Mykayla Comstock, a 7-year-old Oregon girl who is undergoing treatment for leukemia, is at the center of a national debate on what age is appropriate to offer medical marijuana as a way to ease the symptoms of cancer treatments. The Oregonian newspaper reports on Comstock’s situation, which is unique in that her parents are divorced and do not agree on the use of cannabis in capsule form:
The Oregon Medical Marijuana Program serves 52 children who have a qualifying medical condition, parental consent and a doctor’s approval. Like adults, most cite pain as a qualifying condition, though many list multiple health problems, including seizures, nausea and cancer.
Allowing adults to consume medical marijuana is gaining acceptance nationwide. But Mykayla’s story underscores the complex issues that arise when states empower parents to administer the controversial drug to children.
Oregon’s law, approved by voters 14 years ago, requires no monitoring of a child’s medical marijuana use by a pediatrician. The law instead invests authority in parents to decide the dosage, frequency and manner of a child’s marijuana consumption.
The state imposes no standards for quality, safety or potency in the production of marijuana.
Little is known about how the drug interacts with the developing body, leading pediatricians say. A recent international study found sustained cannabis use among teens can cause long-term damage to intellect, memory and attention.
Many doctors worry about introducing a child to marijuana when they say other drugs can treat pain and nausea more effectively.
Mykayla’s father, who is divorced from the girl’s mother, was so disturbed by his daughter’s marijuana use that he contacted child welfare officials, police and her oncologist. Jesse Comstock said his concerns were prompted by a visit with Mykayla in August.
“She was stoned out of her mind,” said Comstock, 26. “All she wanted to do was lay on the bed and play video games.”
But Mykayla’s mother and her boyfriend, Erin Purchase and Brandon Krenzler, see the drug as a harmless antidote to leukemia’s host of horrors. The couple, regular cannabis users raised in Pendleton, said Mykayla relies almost exclusively on pot to treat pain, nausea, vomiting, depression and sleep problems associated with her cancer treatment.
Mykayla, who favors a knit cupcake cap to cover her fuzz of strawberry-colored hair, said marijuana makes her feel better.
It helps me eat and sleep,” she said, nestled against her mother on a couch. “The chemotherapy makes you feel like you want to stay up all night long.”
Marijuana, she said, “makes me feel funny, happy.”
“She’s like she was before,” her mother said. “She’s a normal kid.”
Image: Marijuana capsules, via Shutterstock
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Friday, June 8th, 2012
A new survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that more American teenagers smoke marijuana than cigarettes.
Twenty-three percent of the high school students who were surveyed about a number of risky behaviors said they recently smoked marijuana, while 18 percent said they had smoked nicotine cigarettes. According to MSNBC.com, some experts attribute the difference to the perception that marijuana is less dangerous than niccotine.
Image: Smoke, via Shutterstock.
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Thursday, December 15th, 2011
A national drug survey released this week has found that teenagers are using marijuana at record levels, with one in 15 high school seniors reporting smoking pot daily or almost daily. The study found that alcohol use among teens, by contrast, is at an all-time low, with 40 percent of high school seniors admitting to drinking alcohol during the past 30 days (54 percent said the same in 1991).
The Associated Press reports on the rise in marijuana use, as well as a heightened use of synthetic marijuana products with names like “Spice” and “K2, saying that one explanation for is that teenagers do not see the drug as a health risk:
The percentage of teens saying they see “great risk” in using marijuana generally has dropped in recent years.
“One thing we’ve learned over the years is that when young people come to see a drug as dangerous, they’re less likely to use it,” Lloyd Johnston, the study’s principal investigator, said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “That helps to explain why marijuana right now is rising, because the proportion of kids who see it as dangerous has been declining.”
The study said marijuana use among teens rose in 2011 for the fourth straight year after considerable decline in the preceding decade.
The survey found 36.4 percent of 12th-graders reported using marijuana in the past year, compared to 31.7 percent in the 2007 survey. Usage was at 28.8 percent for 10th-graders and 12.5 percent for eighth-graders within the previous 12 months, according to the 2011 survey.
The synthetic drug survey question was asked for the first time this year. Fake marijuana, sometimes sold in drug paraphernalia shops and on the Internet as incense, contains organic leaves coated with chemicals that provide a marijuana-like high when smoked.
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A Drug Enforcement Administration emergency order banning the sale of five chemicals used in herbal blends to make synthetic marijuana took effect March 1. The synthetics are among the many that would be banned under a bill passed in the U.S. House earlier this month. Many states also have their own laws banning the sale of synthetic marijuana.
Image: Cigarette smoke, via Shutterstock.
Tuesday, September 27th, 2011
Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found that more than 65 percent of American teenagers do not get enough sleep each night (“enough” sleep is defined as 8 hours or more). In a new study published online in the journal Preventative Medicine, the chronic lack of sleep is linked with a list of behaviors that are risky to teens’ health. Specifically, teens who didn’t get enough sleep:
- Drank soda or pop 1 or more times per day (not including diet soda or diet pop)
- Did not participate in 60 minutes of physical activity on 5 or more of the past 7 days
- Used computers 3 or more hours each day
- Had been in a physical fight 1 or more times
- Practiced current cigarette use
- Practiced current alcohol use
- Practiced current marijuana use
- Practiced currently sexually active
- Felt sad or hopeless
- Seriously considered attempting suicide
“Public health intervention is greatly needed, and the consideration of delayed school start times may hold promise as one effective step in a comprehensive approach to address this problem,” said Lela McKnight-Eily of the CDC’s Division of Adult and Community Health in a statement.
(image via: http://topnews.net.nz/)
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Friday, July 8th, 2011
The Body Odd blog on MSNBC.com reports on a bizarre trend that may be on the rise: kids soaking marijuana in formaldehyde embalming fluid, then smoking it in order to get a “higher high” than with marijuana alone:
Here’s what’s happening: People seeking an enhanced high soak marijuana joints in, in these particular cases, formaldehyde, for the secondary effects. “Embalming fluid burns more slowly than the marijuana would if it were not treated,” says Dr. Bret Nicks, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, N.C. This technique causes what can be an intense hallucinatory effect.
In the 1990s, there was a rash of cases of overexposure to inhaled formaldehyde, whose side effects included hallucinations, paranoia, panic, and loss of consciousness. This past 4th of July weekend, three Texas teenagers were hospitalized with an overdose of embalming fluid, and two funeral home burglaries were recently reported where formaldehyde was the only stolen item.
If parents need another reason to advise their kids against this practice, they might note that formaldehyde was recently identified as a carcinogen by the US government’s National Toxicology Program.
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