In light of recent successful seizure treatment for children in South Jersey, parents are calling for medical marijuana research to help further these possibilities.
The little girl who is sparking all of this is Tatyana "Tuffy" Rivera of Camden County, who has suffered from Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy, since she was ten months old. Because of her condition, she can suffer up to 300 seizures of a day, which sometimes last for as long as ten minutes. The prescriptions she was taking for the condition weren’t working, and as a result, she had to wear a helmet all the time, and was rarely able to venture away from a couch or a bed.
Frustrated by lack of results from the prescription drugs, her parents, like many others in their situation, decided to give medical cannabis a try. Tuffy now takes oil infused with marijuana three times a day. Since she has started these treatment, her seizures have been reduced to just one every two or three weeks, she has begun to speak, and was even able to attend a water park for her birthday.
All of this is legal and above board - New Jersey does have a medical marijuana program that allows for treatment in severe cases such as this. However, because of the restrictions that still exist when it comes to experimenting with cannabis, it is not yet clear whythe plant is having such a drastic and positive impact on seizure patients, or how exactly it works.
"I have to come home, go onto the stove and act like a pharmacist, which I'm not," stated Rivera’s mother in an interview with the Courier-Post. "I'm actually considering leaving the state because this program (is) a joke, a complete joke." Rivera also has to drive an hour to get the medicine, and relies on instructions from internet videos to learn how to prepare the product for her daughter.
This all ties in with the recent federal proposal of the CARERS (Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States) Act backed by U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. If this Act passes, marijuana would no longer be a Schedule I drug, meaning it has no medical purpose and is not fit for research. Instead, it would be Schedule II, meaning that while it is still illegal and not fully accepted, it would be recognized for its medical potential, and research could get underway. Both doctors and patients in New Jersey are in favor of this.
"I'm encouraged to hear someone's having a good response,"Dr. Michael Goodman, the pediatric neurologist and chief of pediatrics at Cooper University Health Care, told the Courier-Post. "But I don't think we have good enough medical understanding of who's going to respond, how they're going to respond, and what makes the response. We need to figure out what makes it work."
Goodman has a point, because despite all this positive hype, not everyone responds positively to this treatment, and it appears that different strains and levels of THC have different effects on patients. Goodman himself has suggested medical marijuana to several seizure patients have reported that it did not work, and other parents in New Jersey have tried many different cannabis strains, and reported that some worked well, while others seemed to have no effect.
While this may sound like gloom and doom for the medical cannabis industry, it shouldn’t. All medications need to undergo extensive testing so that it can be determined why and how they work, and what properties are important to consider. It could be very possible that certain hereditary makeups, genders, or other factors stop medical marijuana for being as effective on seizures, but we will never know unless we allow the kind of testing that all other drugs, including much more harmful ones, are allowed to receive.
Luckily, there is very serious action being taken to allow such testing to become a reality. And as medical cannabis is becoming more accepted, websites like Weed Depot’s Marijuana MD and Marijuana Health Tips can come in handy for finding out which kind of medical cannabis is right for you. Since this medicine is working for some people, we have no doubt that the people of New Jersey, and the U.S. in general, will push for this legislation.