Marijuana Effective for ADD/ADHD?

A woman doctor in Ventura County believes it is. Of course there’s intense opposition to her findings. Ever since Reefer Madness, the world has viewed marijuana as a dangerous drug. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I’m so glad I received an email from a friend in California this morning about her daughter who has always been thought of as having ADHD (attention deficit hyper disorder). Rachel fought the school over giving Cindy the standard dangerous drugs to control her, but was dismayed at her grades and the trouble she was always in. To her shock, Cindy, now in Junior High, just got an excellent report card.

Weeks before grades came out, Rachel had written that she’d discovered Cindy smoked pot and she was beyond distraught, buying into the tried and tired bit that it’s a gateway drug, leading to the hard stuff. I wrote back and told her that was total nonsense, that kids experiment at Cindy’s age and not to come down hard on her, as it could make things worse. She was worried about her education and that she was headed down the wrong path and revealed that well-meaning friends and family were giving her too much advice, but it all boiled down to putting Cindy on a very short leash.

The good grades turned Rachel’s head around from thinking that pot had probably turned Cindy’s brain into mush and she’d flunk. What bunk! She gave me a URL to an article she’d discovered in the local paper and asked me to read it and tell her what I thought. I actually cheered upon reading it. Well, there were some boo’s, too, aimed at the pathetically ill-informed debunkers.

Put that pre-judgement away and read this, please. Headlined: “Ventura physician promotes marijuana to treat attention disorders.” from the Ventura County Star. I’m surprised they printed it and happy they did.

“Dr. Claudia Jensen has seen marijuana help lawyers focus in court, executives excel and adolescents get good grades.

The drug often associated with slackers can do more than Ritalin and other stimulants to motivate millions of Americans with attention disorders, says Jensen, a physician at the Center for Integrated Health in Ventura.

“It can calm you down; Ritalin amps you up,” Jensen said. “Cannabis can help you sleep; Ritalin gives you insomnia. Cannabis gives you an appetite; Ritalin makes you anorexic.”

Jensen is one of a handful of California doctors invoking state law to approve marijuana, medically known as cannabis sativa, for adults and adolescents who have difficulty with routine daily tasks because they have attention-deficit disorder or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. On Thursday, Jensen will have five minutes to convince a congressional subcommittee in Washington, D.C., that the drug works.”

I have to say this article has me pumped. There’s been huge focus on medicinal marijuana for everything from AIDS,chronic pain to glaucoma and particularly as the substance of choice to control nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy patients. Look at San Francisco and Northern California and the strides made there to make it legal for those in need of non-chemical relief. I’ve never read of it being used on kids with these disorders, but it sure makes sense to me.

Back to the article, check out what one of Jensen’s fellow doctors has to say. What century or better, what planet is this guy on? It’s this kind of thinking that stunts progress and in turn, messes up a lot of kids whose parents take his advice.

“When someone is high on marijuana, they are not able to process properly, they have more problems with their focus and attention, and it is well known that marijuana causes short-term memory problems,” said Dr. Loren Label, head of the ADD Clinic in Thousand Oaks.

Is that why Cindy got a 3.0 grade average? She’s not hyped up on behaviour-controlling drugs, she smokes pot and is a top student. Doesn’t that say something? Her mom didn’t know she was smoking before school because Cindy knew she’d wig big time and would never understand how it helps her focus. It’s a sad fact that most parents are of the belief that their pot-smoking kid is going to wind up dead in an alley with a needle that contained heroin in their arm. Wake up! That’s not the case, dammit, and of course, there are kids as well as adults who shouldn’t smoke the wild weed, as not all chemical make-up’s are the same, but for those that it helps, where’s the fucking problem?

I point a finger at the haha War On Drugs and it’s complete failure. I shake one at educators who order their students to take dangerous chemicals just so they won’t have to be dealt with and of course the money they receive. Pot could be a life-saver for overly hyper kids who won’t take the pills. Finally, an alternative, but a very unpopular one it is, in spite of testimony from so many as to how it’s benefited their lives, and the cry is always, “they’re kids!!” I agree, this is a radical departure from standard treatment, but a good radical approach to organic vs chemical. Mydog, they give them something similiar to cocaine and balk at the benign marijuana?

Jensen and the others aren’t alone — they have back-up in Oregon. From hevanet, no date but it must be fairly recent. Give this puppy a read, but I must warn that it’s highly technical and easy to scan through, but it gets into the different kinds of ADD and how little is known about the variants. Headline:

“Marijuana and ADD
Therapeutic uses of Medical Marijuana in the treatment of Attention Deficit Disorder”

“It was mentioned in the Portland newspaper that the Oregon Health Division is considering allowing medical marijuana to be used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act. At first glance it might seem counter-intuitive to use a medication that has a public perception of decreasing attention to treat a condition whose primary symptom is a deficit of attention. But just as taking stimulants often calms those with hyperactivity, medical marijuana improves the ability to concentrate in some types of ADD.” Oh yeah, this is bigger than first thought. Wow, this next part hits home!

The particular type of ADD under consideration for treatment with medical marijuana might better be termed “Racing Brain Syndrome” (RBS). A useful analogy for this mental condition is that of a centrifugal pump that is being over-driven. As the pump speed increases, cavitation sets in and the pump’s output decreases. The faster the pump is driven the greater the cavitation until a point is reached where large amounts of energy are being input but nothing is being output. Without medication there is a sensation that thoughts flash through the brain too fast to “think” them. Medical marijuana slows the brain down sufficiently to achieve impressive improvements in functionality.”

Listen to what a retired Harvard Medical School psychiatrist and author of 2 books on medicinal marijuana has to say about ADHD and marijuana in the question and answer section of his site, rxmarihuana.

“Dear Dr, Grinspoon:

Hilary Black at the Compassion Club in Vancouver B.C. Canada gave me your name. I am a Master’s student who is conducting a qualitative inquiry on the relationship between ADHD and the use of marijuana. I have had a very difficult time finding any literature on this specific topic. It would appear that there is very little evidence on what marijuana does for these folks. My research is almost completed and the stories from the five participants are great. It is clear that cannabis offers a sense of calm and “normalcy”. But my lit review is still lacking and I was hoping that you could offer me some suggestions. Has no one else ever published an inquiry on the effects of marijuana on ADHD? Has no one else ever listened to their stories?

I look forward to your response.

Thank you very much.

Debbie Verkerk

Dear Ms. Verkerk,

It was more than a decade ago that I first had the experience of observing a high school student with ADHD treat this disorder much more successfully with cannabis than with his doctor-prescribed Ritalin. His mother (now deceased), a vice president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who had asked me to see him for evaluation, was also persuaded that he did much better while using cannabis than he ever did with Ritalin. Since that time I have seen a number of patients, both young people and adults, who have had similar experiences. I have also heard from many others; still I have seen no reference to this possibility in the scientific or medical literature. I think that we are now in the same situation we were with Tourette’s syndrome about a decade ago; a number of anecdotal reports but nothing in the medical literature. Today you can find citations in the literature on cannabis as a treatment for Tourette’s. The bottom line is that this use of cannabis for the treatment of ADHD is still in the clinical observation or anecdotal stage, and it may be impossible to find the citations you seek.

With best wishes for success with your paper,

Lester Grinspoon MD”

There you have it, it’s still being studied, not much information is available, but I can’t help but think if a wise parent had to choose between legal speed (which is what Ritalin and the others are) and marijuana, they’d choose the latter. I know I would. I wish Dr. Claudia Jensen the best of luck when she visits DC. I realize this is most controversial and is liable to evoke some pretty strong criticism, but all I want is for people to think about it and the lesser of evils. I thank Rachel for bringing this to my attention. I wrote, “Legally Drugging the Kids” eight months ago and it’s accessed daily. What does that tell you?

“Marijuana is the safest therapeutically active substance known to man… safer than many foods we commonly consume.”
– DEA Judge Francis L. Young

Brenda Stardom

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