Vol. 8, Number 3
cheryl riley, James Freire,
Dr. David Bearman,
Gradi Jordan, Ed Glick,
Paul Armentano, Keith Stroup
Sunil Aggarwal, Julie Godard
Al Byrne, Amanda Reiman,
Jim Greig, Chip Whitley,
Sandee Burbank, Joan Bello
Dr. Ethan Russo, Bryan Krumm
AAMC Rhode Island
Childhood Epilepsy and Cannabis: Pioneering Medicine Using Hemp Oil - Julie Godard
Should children be treated with cannabis derivatives? The answer might be different depending on the health and existence of particular children – for instance, is it all right to give children with cancer marijuana-infused fruit chews to make their lives less painful? Or is it all right for a baby suffering from severe and life-threatening epilepsy to receive hemp oil doses in order to survive? Vice’s episode Stoned Kids from their series Weediquette is an eye-opener to the presence of medicinal cannabis in the lives of chronically ill children, and is worth a peek just for ways that some families have made it work. (Warning: you may not agree with all the parents and methods in this film.)
The recent groundbreaking hemp oil treatment of Amylea Nuñez at Children’s Hospital in Aurora, Colorado this month, may also affect the answer. Amylea went from seizing every four hours, to every two hours, then every thirty minutes. Imagine the terror of a 66 minute-long seizure in a new infant, knowing every moment might kill her. Due to her seizures, Amylea’s heart stopped twice during her 15 seizures per day, and her parents (Ernie and Nicole Nuñez) did not want to give her a medicine which might have stopped the seizures but in turn damage her liver. The parents asked neurologists at Children’s Hospital to let them use the Stanley brothers’ famous Charlotte’s Web CBD oil containing low THC in order to treat Amylea – they were refused for weeks, but the neurologists finally allowed the treatment. Ernie and Nicole’s eventual goal is to take Amylea completely off conventional medicines and use only the hemp oil to reduce or eliminate her seizures. Children’s Hospital has stated that they want to continue helping children like Amylea in the future, even if that help includes allowing CBD oil treatment Amylea’s awareness of her parents and others has increased from nothing during her first days, and the part she plays in the Denver study should help doctors, patients, and children with severe epilepsy by studying the participants’ reaction to the oil and any side effects over the long-term. The study could pave the way for natural treatments of not only epilepsy in children, but also other diseases cannabis derivatives have been shown to affect, such as cancer.
Cannabis is so effective in treating epilepsy, that the head of the Epilepsy Foundation Chairman of the Board Warren Lammert has recommended that CBD oil be made available nationally for children with epilepsy. Lammert’s daughter, Sylvie lives with daily seizures, which began when she was 9 months old; she is now 16 and attends a special school due to her epilepsy. Jenna, who moved to Colorado in January of 2014 with her family got on the waiting list for Charlotte’s Web as soon as she could, and has reduced her seizures down to 50 a month from 300 – her family stated that “she’s developing a personality that we’ve never seen, so it’s been very awesome.” The effects of Charlotte’s Web generally take up to 9 months to kick in, but Jenna’s seizures were controlled considerably after only 2 months, indicating that different children will have different results from the medication.
Dr. Amy Brooks-Kayal is the chief of pediatric neurology at Children’s Hospital, and teaches as a professor of pediatrics, neurology, and pharmaceutical sciences at the Unversit of Colorado School of Medicine. Her specialty is pediatric epilepsy, and she is president of the American Epilepsy Society. Medical providers at Children’s Hospital cannot prescribe or even recommend medical marijuana, Charlotte’s Web, or any other treatments associated with cannabis because of the lack of “clear, scientific evidence that marijuana improves epilepsy in children.” However, Dr. Brooks-Kayal stated that the hospital wants to continue to work with families who choose to administer cannabis-derived medicines to their children, suggesting that hospital baseline testing will help parents administer the correct dosage and look for positive and adverse side effects.
Colorado is not the first state to administer hemp oil to children; and now Amylea has company as well – a second baby, named Adeline, has been treated with Charlotte’s Web. Amylea has been taken out of the NICU and is doing well according to her mother. There is conflicting information in the media about which children being treated with CBD and hemp oil are a part of a clinical study or cannabis trial; at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas, doctors are part of an “international drug trial to test a marijuana compound when use to treat epilepsy.” (This is according to Afarin Majidi of Firsttoknow.com.) Majidi reported that 10 children ages two to 14 are the subjects of the Texas study, and all have Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome (LGS) which is a severe form of epilepsy resulting in up to 150 seizures per day for the children.
A trial in Melbourne, Victoria, at Australia’s Austin Health is using a synthetic cannabidiol developed by Insys Therapeutics, Inc. in the United States to test the effects on 60 children over 2016 – although the article did report that there is a study indicating that synthetic cannabidiols are not as safe or effective as those derived from actual cannabis. As the stakes climb in childhood and infant epilepsy cases, so does the determination of parents to obtain a safe, non-damaging, natural, and medically approved option for controlling seizures and allowing their children to lead normal lives. Sam’s story is the remarkable tale of an 11-year-old boy whose family was flying all over the world in order to obtain pharmaceutical grade cannabis derivative pills for their son in desperation after years of over 100 seizures per day. Sam’s family endured four months of communications and meetings in Europe and the United States in order to obtain the drugs – which were created just for Sam by an unnamed company in California. Sam’s seizures were eventually reduced to 3 per day from the original 100 by a dosage of 250 mg of pure CBD oil from GW Pharmaceuticals in the United Kingdom.
Despite all the success stories of cannabis-derived medicines for children like Sam, Amylea, Jenna, and Adeline, the fact remains that the science of medicine has not yet caught up with cannabidiols in many cases, and the difficulty of testing children is part of what’s holding it back. Brave parents and families who are trying to help their children with cannabidiol trials and synthetic cannabidiol trials will eventually be the pioneers of the medical knowledge gained twenty years from now; and there is no doubt that children with epilepsy will be impacted in positive ways too numerous to count. Simply having a normal day, eating breakfast, going to school, enjoying the company of friends and family, and the ability to learn like other children is the true test of cannabidiol and hemp oil use for these children: living a productive, happy life is now possible.
As studies continue across the globe at breakneck pace, and pharmaceutical companies struggle to find a synthetic version of cannabidiol or hemp oil which contains no THC, the true healing nature of the cannabis plant will continue to play a large part in the medical industry at large, for epilepsy patients, cannabis patients, and many other patients who may be struggling with natural and safe resolutions for other diagnoses.
Alleviating Alzheimers: How Can Cannabis Help? - Julie Godard
When most of us think of Alzheimer’s, we think of elderly people suffering from dementia in some form or another, or perhaps of a relative who had the disease in their later years. While Alzheimer’s does generally affect people in their later years, early-onset Alzheimer’s can affect people as young as forty or fifty in some cases – 5 percent of people with the disease are younger. Many people dealing with Alzheimer’s, whether personally or in someone they know as an acquaintance or friend report mental problems such as memory retrieval, thinking patterns, dementia, and erratic or repetitious behavior. Alzheimer’s symptoms progress over time, and eventually cause great disruption of daily human functioning and the ability to complete simple tasks that were once easy for the person. Some late-stage patients may lose the ability to communicate and respond to the environment around them altogether – there is a sense of complete isolation, even from the people who love that person the most and were previously close. Warning signs of Alzheimers include memory loss that disrupts daily life; difficulty in following a plan or problem-solving that was previously easy; difficulty in completing familiar tasks; time or place confusion; trouble with image and spatial interpretation; new oral or written communication problems; misplacing things and inability to retrace steps; decrease or poor judgment; withdrawal from social or work activities; and changes in mood or personality. Although these changes are often normal with age, Alzheimer’s symptoms are more severe.
According to the Mayo Clinic, Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and most people with noticeable symptoms live only eight years after Alzheimer’s is diagnosed; there is no cure. Women in their 60s are 50% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s as breast cancer during their remaining years of life. That’s the bad news – the good news is that research and investigation into the disease has become so prevalent that breakthroughs are happening more frequently – and with the legalization of medical and recreational cannabis, the research can delve into the positive responses of Alzheimer’s sufferers and cannabis intake, as well.
As early as 2006, studies were being conducted on viability of the link between the endocannabinoid system in the brain and Alzheimer’s disease; the disease devastates families, leaving them with little help in caring for aging parents or relatives who can no longer care for themselves – the cost of good care for an Alzheimer’s patient in the United States can often be upward of $73,380 for a semi-private room in a nursing home annually, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. A private room in a nursing home facility with basic services for an alzheimer’s patient costs about $87,600, and an assisted living facility residence is $42,000.
These costs can be prohibitive for the average family, and caring for an Alzheimer’s patient within the home can be distressing, emotional, and sometimes impossible. In 2014, Alzheimer’s a dementia caregivers had $9.3 billion total in additional healthcare costs according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
The emotional responses of Alzheimer’s patients are often aggressive, fearful, or depressed – the deterioration of relationships as the patient becomes unable to recognize loved ones or creates new relationships without a memory of those which already exist can be traumatizing for family members and spouses. The chairman of the medical advisory board at the Alzheimer’s Foundation, Richard Powers, noted that new emotional relationships are “common enough that we need to be able to deal with it in a thoughtful and compassionate way,” speaking of two Alzheimer’s patients who find a connection. Powers observed that having Alzheimer’s is similar to the experience of a person who woke up in an unknown and strange location, where that person didn’t know anyone and was unfamiliar with the surroundings – this would cause fear and possibly aggression in anyone. Some patients cannot even interpret the language being spoken around them – but finding someone who feels the same way might be the only way to survive. Powers noted that Alzheimer’s patients, although they feel adrift, “Continue to search for companionship and friendship” even in nursing homes and assisted living facilities; it’s the nature of being human to seek out other people. Powers cautioned that these emotional relationships are not precisely “falling in love,” noting that falling in love necessitates memory, reason, decision-making, and communication and that many patients no longer have these capabilities.
In 2014, an article published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that THC “could be a potential therapeutic treatment option for Alzheimer’s disease through multiple functions and pathways.” In layman’s terms, this means that THC is able to slow or halt certain “hallmark characteristics” of the disease. The presence of the protein Amyloid-β has been linked to Alzheimer’s symptoms, but THC dosing at regular intervals inhibits aggregation in the protein with no observable toxicity or other side effects – it also enhances the function of the body’s mitochondria, known as the “cell’s energy factories” according to David Downs of SFGate. Aggregation is changes in secondary and tertiary protein structure, or plaque formation, which is common in patients with dementia, according to the University of Berlin. Chuanhai Cao, and Ph.D. a neuroscientist at the University of South Florida’s College of Pharmacy and Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute, observed that “THC is known to be a potent antioxidant with neuroprotective properties” but this study is the first of its kind – the discovery of the enhancement of Alzheimer’s patients by the cannabis derivative is a key to unlocking a mystery that has plagued medical science for generations.
Dr. Cao stated in a University of South Florida article that “This study indicates that THC and THC-related compounds may be of therapeutic value in Alzheimer’s disease.” The Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute is investigating the effects of a “drug cocktail” including THC, caffeine, and other natural compounds, and will begin testing on a genetically-engineered mouse model soon. In a similar study conducted last year, a team of scientific researchers obtained similar results, finding that THC and CBD botanical extracts, both alone and in combination, preserve mouse memory when given during early stages of symptomatic Alzheimer’s disease. Aso, et al.’s study noted that the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabinoids may also have a positive effect on the Alzheimer’s brain – and both THC and CBD used together had the best effect overall.
We’ve reviewed the opinions of scientists and medical experts on the “possible” effects of cannabis THC and cannabidiols on Alzheimer’s patients, but what about the patients themselves and their families? The creator and author of the Skunk Pharm Research, LLC, known as Graywolf, noted that when her mother’s Alzheimer’s symptoms could no longer be regulated by western medicines, and she became “combative and personal hygiene became an issue,” she was forced to quit her job to care for her for the rest of her life. Her regular western medicines included five over-the-counter drugs, three inhalers and an oral pill to control her asthma, blood pressure and allergy medications, anti-psychotics, anti-seizure medication, and three other medications that Graywolf did not know the purpose of. Graywolf’s mother had smoked cannabis recreationally with her daughter for over thirty years, and Graywolf worked with her mother’s doctor to obtain a medical marijuana license for her and “systematically” remove as many western drugs from her schedule as possible. Graywolf stated that “cannabis was my only means of mitigating [her mother’s] despicable behavior.” Her mother did not like the taste of the cannabis essential oils in any food stuffs, so she used hash oil in combination with other essential oils and became happier and less combative over time. Her behavior changed so markedly that Graywolf was able to “get her off of most of the original drug regiment,” and help her into “cognitive changes [that] were unmistakably positive.” Graywolf’s mother began to interact with her family and friends appropriately, and her cognitive thinking seemed to have improved – she even began to play jokes on them. Graywolf claims her mother’s doctor said, “I wish all my Alzheimer’s patients were on cannabis. Look at her quality of life!”
Stories like Graywolf’s are heartening and promising, as are the exciting scientific investigations surrounding cannabis and Alzheimer’s effects on the brain. In the future, with the increasing momentum of cannabis legalization, families like Graywolf’s may be able to tell their stories to federal and state legislatures and increase funding, acceptance, and use of medicinal and recreational cannabis for Alzheimer’s patients across the globe.
Alabama: Considering a medical marijuana law.
Arkansas: Considering a medical marijuana law.
Idaho: Considering a medical marijuana law.
Indiana: Considering a medical marijuana law.
Iowa: Considering a medical marijuana law.
Missouri: Considering a medical marijuana law.
North Carolina: Considering a medical marijuana law.
Ohio: Medical marijuana law on November ballot.
Pennsylvania: Considering a medical marijuana law.
South Carolina: Considering a medical marijuana law.
South Dakota: Medical marijuana petition drive underway.
Tennessee: Considering a medical marijuana law.
Texas: Considering a medical marijuana law.
Wisconsin: Considering a medical marijuana law.
Featured Recipe - Glycerine-based Tincture by Leanne Barron
You need to use food grade U.S.P glycerine, this can be relatively hard to find inexpensively but a gallon lasts a LONG time.
April 14-16, 2016
Baltimore, Maryland USA
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