Today is 4/20, a day when pro-marijuana advocates come out in support of legalization efforts around the US to legalize. I’m a doctor in the state of Texas, and a psychiatrist. I’m in the field of medicine that treats addictions and PTSD. The DSM5 has added Cannabis dependence as a disease classification due to a growing body of research showing that it is possible to get hooked on pot, and simultaneously, evidence shows cannabis may be a viable medical treatment for several mental health disorders.
Meanwhile, the debate over medical marijuana has begun in Texas. Medical cannabis has many uses, many of them that might affect the patients I see every day: PTSD and anxiety disorders can be treated with cannabis. We have other effective treatments for those illnesses, so as a physician, I haven’t been compelled to lobby my legislature for medical legalization of cannabis to treat mental health disorders.
But then I learned about the research on cannabis oil for childhood seizures from a fellow Texas physician, a pediatrician, who handed me an article and said, “Have you seen these numbers? This is amazing.” It appears cannabis oil can have miraculous effects on some childhood seizure disorders. There are medical journal articles with statistical analyses for the medical professionals, and & videos posted by parents of kids with intractable seizures to demonstrate for anyone who wants to search online and see for yourself. Desperate families of kids with terrible seizure disorders are trying to petition the legislature to offer them hope where there has been none.
Some of the kids who could be helped with medical cannabis have twenty or more seizures every day. The damage to their brains and bodies is unthinkable, and then there’s the toll on the family: the constant monitoring, the sleepless nights, the fear of serious head trauma from the next episode, and the fear of a seizure that can’t be controlled, resulting in an untimely death.
The problem with a debate over medical marijuana is that it can quickly turn into a black and white, simple yes or no, partisan set of arguments. “Drugs are bad.” “Pot is safe.” My view on cannabis is not black or white, for sure.
I don’t want teenagers and young adults smoke recreational marijuana, or use any substance to escape reality. The association between marijuana use and the onset of schizophrenia worries me, and young brains as still forming, making them especially vulnerable to the affects of substance use.
But medical cannabis can save little lives. Children’s lives. So, I hope the Texas legislature legalizes medical marijuana. And I simultaneously hope your teenager (and mine) doesn’t choose to smoke it recreationally.