- The Washington Times - Monday, December 7, 2009


I was horrified to read recently that it is increasingly common in California to treat children diagnosed with Attention- Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) with marijuana. California voters passed a law allowing doctors to recommend medical marijuana to their patients, including those under the age of 18. The law allows doctors to recommend marijuana “for any … illness for which marijuana provides relief.” Under that broad umbrella, doctors are pushing pot to treat all kinds of maladies, including ADHD.

Truly, this is horrifying. ADHD is described as a neurological disorder that prevents children from focusing on a specific task. In essence, people with ADHD have difficulty with self-regulation and self-motivation, owing to problems with distractibility, organization and prioritization.

Notably, these are the same functions that are most impaired by marijuana use. Get it? Pot actually exacerbates the problems with attention, memory and concentration that you want a treatment for ADHD to alleviate. That’s why Stephen Hinshaw, psychology department chairman at the University of California at Berkeley, called prescribing marijuana to treat ADHD “one of the worst ideas of all time.”

At the very least, using marijuana to treat adolescents with ADHD is wildly irresponsible. First of all, the FDA has never conducted an approval process on marijuana, and few institutions are willing to fund studies to show the effects of using marijuana as a remedy for ADHD. Consequently, there are no reliable studies to show how the drug may affect ADHD. All the so-called “evidence” in support of prescribing marijuana to children is anecdotal, based completely on self-selecting self-reports. There is no reliable scientific basis for drugging these children into complacency. Nonetheless, doctors, school counselors and misinformed parents are increasingly pushing marijuana to kids.

Even the validity of the ADHD diagnosis is questionable. It is worth noting that there exists no scientific method for diagnosing this ailment. Simply, if a child is observed to be acting bored, distracted and/or boisterous in the classroom, he is often thought to be suffering from ADHD. Notably, these are the same symptoms of another condition that afflicts millions of children — childhood.

Currently, every child in public school is required to undergo testing for attention-deficit disorder. The most recent analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 1.6 million elementary-school children were diagnosed with ADHD between 1997 and 1998. By drugging these children into complacency, a consortium of psychiatrists and marijuana dispensaries are making money off children acting like children. They try to rationalize this child-drugging industry by arguing that marijuana is harmless and non-addictive. Some baby-boomer parents go along, saying to themselves, “It’s only marijuana.”

What they don’t realize is that marijuana use during childhood and the early-teen years produces significantly different effects than marijuana use later in life. The behaviors exhibited by introducing tetrahydrocannabinol — the active ingredient in marijuana — to the brain are similar to those demonstrated by alcohol consumption. Obvious side effects include mental clouding and sluggishness. There is now conclusive evidence that chronic marijuana use during adolescence tends to retard the users’ emotional, academic and vocational development. This, in turn, can lead to poor school/work performance, poor social relationships and a general feeling of low self-esteem. Obviously, if the drug is being prescribed, it is being used chronically. People who use marijuana at a young age are also at significantly higher risk for the development of a mental disorder. Get it? Marijuana use at a young age can cause adverse effects that plague the user for the rest of their lives.

Moreover, there are serious physical side effects that every marijuana user should be aware of. First of all, marijuana is physically addictive. As the potency of the drug continues to get more powerful, admission to rehabilitation facilities has doubled for marijuana addiction. Each year, 100,000 teens are treated for marijuana dependence. In addition, marijuana smoke contains three to five times the tar and carbon monoxide that tobacco smoke does, placing users at increased risk for lung cancer and other respiratory illnesses.

Amazingly, psychiatrists, pot dispensaries and misinformed parents continue to push the stuff to kids. Instead of doping our children when they act, you know, childlike, maybe we should consider a return to parenting. My father was confronted with several boisterous children. His solution? A few stern words and the loud snap of a belt. Believe me, we paid attention.

Of course, nowadays parents are made to feel guilty for disciplining their children. So we opt instead to medicate. Medicate the child whose eyes glaze during science class. Medicate the child who displays a little too much childlike exuberance. Medicate him. Medicate her. Medicate everyone.

Very simply, children simply do not have the maturity and knowledge to make major decisions regarding their health. The state has a compelling interest to step in and shield minors from harmful and addictive substances. It is imperative that our state legislators invoke this power and legally prevent psychiatrists from prescribing pot to children.

While they’re at it, lawmakers also need to ensure that children diagnosed with ADHD receive thorough medical examinations to rule out other possible causes of the symptoms associated with the disorder. Equally important is that parents receive full disclosure of the dangerous side effects of using marijuana during a child’s peak emotional, social and vocational learning years. Very simply, our youth should not be drugged into complacency. This is an abomination.

• “The Armstrong Williams Show” is broadcast on XM Satellite’s Power 169 channel from 9 to 10 p.m. weeknights.

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