Roughly half of the Canadian pediatric doctors reported that they have encountered young patients who have used cannabis for medical reasons.
Canadian Paediatric Surveillance Program or CPSP’s survey particularly found that 419 out of the 835 doctors who participated in the survey had a patient that had used either legal or unauthorized cannabis for medical relief.
This study by the organization, however, did not give more information on how many cases were involved in the unauthorized consumption, the ages of the minors, and the conditions they have.
This raised some questions from the principal investigator Dr. Richard Bélanger, the Quebec City pediatrician.
Dr. Bélanger, also Montreal’s city councilor and a professor at Laval University said that he is surprised by the number of the young cannabis users. He also added that there is a need for more information for the patients, their parents, and the pediatricians that have participated in the survey.
Bélanger also noted that more than a third of the respondents said that they had been asked by a young patient or by their parent to prescribe medical cannabis.
Only 34 doctors in the survey said that they had done so but they had warned both the patient and their guardians about the efficacy, concerns about the experience and potential for abuse later on, and the impact to developing brains of the adolescents.
CPSP’s investigative survey was done in the spring of 2017 as a part of their larger look at a number of controversial topics like the Zika virus, Lyme disease, various eating disorders, and medical cannabis use.
Among the results of CPSP’s study, researchers were more surprised by the number of kids and teens who appear to be turning to medical cannabis. It was lesser than the number they anticipated.
“We really want to make clear that cannabis is not only an adult issue, either for recreational but [also] medical purposes,” Bélanger said of the findings. “Sometimes when we look at the treatment we tend to forget kids, and it should not be the case.”
Bélanger said that the group suspects that the younger patients were probably given the prescription for conditions like chronic pain, refractory seizures, and cerebral palsy.
Meanwhile, he believes that the teens were more likely to use cannabis unauthorized for either recreational use or for conditions such as anxiety or sleep problems.
The Quebec City pediatrician said that higher than expected use of cannabis in minors could also be because the pediatricians who were surveyed generally treat children with severe and chronic conditions that may require alternative treatments like cannabis.
He also cited that since the study was conducted in urban and academic areas, doctors are more likely to handle the severe cases.
The response rate of the survey was just 31 percent, which according to the researcher, may under or over-represent the knowledge and experience of the pediatricians in the country.
The researchers still have some questions about the impending legalization of cannabis for adult use in Canada this October and its impact on the unauthorized medical use of the drug.
Still anxious about the issue due to the mixed perspectives among Canadian pediatricians, Bélanger said that from a pediatric’s perspective, there is seldom a reason to permit the patients to use medical cannabis except probably for seizures but he said that at the moment, there is still no clear evidence with regard to that.
The CPSP survey also discovered a clear majority of the doctors who participated in the survey had no knowledge on why cannabis might be advised for a young cannabis patient, what kind of product is best for them, or what dosage is enough and may be authorized.
Researchers of the survey said that despite medical cannabis having a fairly positive image for medical purposes for certain conditions, it still lacks the solid scientific proof of its efficacy and safety.
Medical cannabis has been legal in Canada since 2001, but the Quebec City pediatrician said that there is still a large space for the Canadian Paediatric Society or any other authorities or association to give more information on what the well-defined facts regarding the possible benefits and harms are of medical cannabis especially for children.
Dr. Bélanger also noted that the data was collected before the publication of a study conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine in 2017. The study evaluates the use of CBD or cannabidiol to treat epilepsy among the youth with the Dravet syndrome.