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Canadian Paediatric Society

Paediatricians call for careful evaluation of the use of cannabis for medical purposes in children

Dec 11 2015

OTTAWA—Although cannabis is increasingly suggested as a treatment for certain paediatric health conditions, evidence is lacking about the overall effect on children.

In a statement released today, the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) calls for careful evaluation of both the safety and efficacy of using cannabis to treat certain paediatric health conditions.

“Current considerations around cannabis use for medical purposes in children have been stimulated by recent case reports of its beneficial effect with refractory epilepsy,” says Dr. Michael Rieder, author of the new statement and chair of the CPS Drug Therapy and Hazardous Substances Committee. “However, there is little data to support either the efficacy or safety of cannabis use for any indications in children, and an increasing body of data suggests possible harm, most importantly in specific conditions.”

Other recommendations from the CPS include:

  • While research is ongoing, the use of cannabis for medical purposes in children should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and always with comprehensive discussion of potential benefits and risks.
  • Smoking marijuana is unacceptable in children for several reasons. Studies of cannabis use for medical purposes in children should explore other ways of delivering it, ensuring safe and consistent concentrations of drug.
  • Clinicians who use cannabis to treat children should have specific expertise and training in using potent psychoactive drugs in this population. Before any treatment, clinicians should thoroughly discuss with the family and patient (if possible) both the goals and potential risks of this choice. A strong monitoring strategy should be put in place to test for efficacy and adverse effects.
  • The selective use of cannabis for medical purposes in children must not be confused with condoning its recreational use by adolescents. Strategies should be developed to discourage its recreational use among adolescents.
     

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About the Canadian Paediatric Society

The Canadian Paediatric Society is a national advocacy association that promotes the health needs of children and youth. Founded in 1922, the CPS represents more than 3,000 paediatricians, paediatric subspecialists and other child health professionals across Canada.

Last updated: Dec 14 2015