Is medical marijuana safe for children with infantile spasms (IS)?

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Shaun A. Hussain, MD
Pediatrics
Whether or not medical marijuana is safe for young children with infantile spasms is unknown. Marijuana in general is not a great compound to be abusing. It is associated with learning problems in teenagers and adults who abuse it frequently. These risks have to be balanced against the risks of the condition it is treating–epilepsy–and specifically against the risks of infantile spasms. The consequences of inadequately treated infantile spasms can be devastating.

If a child has infantile spasms and first-line therapies like prednisolone, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and vigabatrin have failed, and the child isn’t a good candidate for surgery or other therapies, that child is essentially left with no good options. There are certainly situations in which the risks of medical marijuana (or any other experimental therapy) are far outweighed by the risks of infantile spasms.

The laws surrounding the use of medical marijuana, even for children, vary quite a bit throughout the United States. Even though most states have provisions for medical marijuana use, it is still federally illegal, so anyone who is prescribing, recommending or using these therapies is potentially subject to prosecution or arrest. The current administration has issued a directive to not prosecute parents who are using this for their children, but that might change. We don't know what will happen with potential changes in the political winds.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.