Starting this year, children in Illinois who struggle with severe medical conditions such as cancer, muscular dystrophy and epilepsy will now have access to medical marijuana. The change comes after parents lobbied lawmakers to expand the 2014 legislation which legalized marijuana as a medical treatment for adults.
While the debate over medical marijuana has grown in recent years, research shows that as far back as the 1980s the drug was shown to be effective for people suffering with epilepsy. According to Medical News Today, Epilepsy is a condition that affects the electrical activity of the brain. Within the human brain electrical signals are constantly sent and received by cells. These signals control everything from breathing to memory to muscle control. Epilepsy causes these electrical signals to increase and this creates a communication error to occur between the cells. When this happens, the person experiences what is known as a seizure.
It is estimated that epilepsy affects 2.5 million Americans and many of these are children. Epilepsy has many causes including birth injury, brain tumors, an infectious illness, strokes, prenatal brain malformation and chromosome disorders. It is also thought that a genetic condition can cause epilepsy to develop in families. Some forms of epilepsy can even raise a child’s mortality rate by 15 or 20 percent. While there are many drugs on the market, these can cause severe side effects for children which include the following: blistering, heart rhythm changes, sleeping problems, cognitive slowness, hyperactivity and even large skin areas that peel off. Additionally, many of the drugs are ineffective.
Medical researchers discovered that the marijuana plant contains a chemical compound called Cannabidiol. This is the compound often used in medical marijuana products and has been proven as an effective treatment in epilepsy as well as cancer and other serious conditions. In epilepsy, medical marijuana has been proven to reduce the number of seizures that a child has and appears to have no negative side effects, including a psychoactive “high.” Recently, researchers at the University of Utah recommended that all children with severe epilepsy as well as other conditions have access to the drug.
Under the new Illinois law, children can only receive medical marijuana in food or through liquid. Furthermore, parents or legal guardians must give their consent and two doctors’ recommendations are required. To receive the medical drug, photos of the children must be submitted and as well as fingerprints of the caregivers.