Drug testing kids a bad idea, doctors say
March 5, 2007

CHICAGO – Subjecting children to drug testing is usually a bad idea for a host of reasons, including often inaccurate results and loss of the child’s trust, a leading pediatricians’ group said on Monday.

Increasingly, schools are embarking on drug testing, particularly of student-athletes, following a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that declared the practice legal.

Parents may also be tempted by newly available home drug screening kits in an effort to catch the problem early.

But the American Academy of Pediatrics, updating its decade-old policy statement on the issue, said screening for illicit drugs is a complicated process prone to errors and cheating, and has not been shown to curtail youngsters’ drug use.

Drug testing also creates a counterproductive climate of “resentment, distrust and suspicion” between children and their parents or school administrators, a committee of experts wrote in the March issue of the group’s journal, Pediatrics.

False-positive results can arise from eating poppy seeds or ingesting certain cold medications, and test results may need to be confirmed with expensive further testing, it said.

Many students are also likely to be aware of Web sites that offer methods of defeating drug testing.

In addition, several illegal drugs are undetectable in urine more than 72 hours after use, and standard tests do not detect often abused substances such as alcohol, Ecstasy and inhalants. Some youngsters may respond to testing by avoiding drugs such as marijuana and instead abuse less-detectable, but more dangerous, drugs, the statement said.

“A key issue at the heart of the drug-testing dilemma is the lack of developmentally appropriate adolescent substance abuse and mental health treatment” in many communities, it said, noting existing programs designed for adults may be unsuitable for children.

The report suggested parents suspicious that a child is abusing drugs or alcohol consult the child’s primary care doctor rather than rely on school-based drug screening or home kits to check their concerns.

Marijuana, the wonder drug
By Lester Grinspoon
March 1, 2007

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts: A new study in the journal Neurology is being hailed as unassailable proof that marijuana is a valuable medicine. It is a sad commentary on the state of modern medicine that we still need “proof” of something that medicine has known for 5,000 years.

The study, from the University of California at San Francisco, found that smoked marijuana was effective at relieving the extreme pain of a debilitating condition known as peripheral neuropathy.

It was a study of HIV patients, but a similar type of pain caused by damage to nerves afflicts people with many other illnesses including diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

Neuropathic pain is notoriously resistant to treatment with conventional pain drugs. Even powerful and addictive narcotics like morphine and OxyContin often provide little relief. This study leaves no doubt that marijuana can safely ease this type of pain.

As all marijuana research in the United States must be, the new study was conducted with government-supplied marijuana of notoriously poor quality. So it probably underestimated the potential benefit.

This is all good news, but it should not be news at all. In the 40-odd years I have been studying the medicinal uses of marijuana, I have learned that the recorded history of this medicine goes back to ancient times.

In the 19th century it became a well-established Western medicine whose versatility and safety were unquestioned. From 1840 to 1900, American and European medical journals published over 100 papers on the therapeutic uses of marijuana, also known as cannabis.

Our knowledge has advanced greatly over the years. Scientists have identified over 60 unique constituents in marijuana, called cannabinoids, and we have learned much about how they work. We have also learned that our own bodies produce similar chemicals, called endocannabinoids.

The mountain of accumulated anecdotal evidence that pointed the way to the present and other clinical studies also strongly suggests there are a number of other devastating disorders and symptoms for which marijuana has been used for centuries.

They deserve the same careful, methodologically sound research.

While few such studies have so far been completed, all have lent weight to what medicine already knew but had largely forgotten or ignored: Marijuana is effective at relieving nausea and vomiting, spasticity, appetite loss, certain types of pain and other debilitating symptoms. And it is extraordinarily safe — safer than most medicines prescribed every day.

If marijuana were a new discovery rather than a well-known substance carrying cultural and political baggage, it would be hailed as a wonder drug.

The pharmaceutical industry is scrambling to isolate cannabinoids and synthesize analogs and to package them in non-smokable forms. In time, companies will almost certainly come up with products and delivery systems that are more useful and less expensive than herbal marijuana.

However, the analogs they have produced so far are more expensive than herbal marijuana, and none has shown any improvement over the plant nature gave us to take orally or to smoke.

We live in an antismoking environment. But as a method of delivering certain medicinal compounds, smoking marijuana has some real advantages: The effect is almost instantaneous, allowing the patient to fine-tune his or her dose to get the needed relief without intoxication.

Smoked marijuana has never been demonstrated to have serious pulmonary consequences, but in any case the technology to inhale these cannabinoids without smoking marijuana already exists as vaporizers that allow for smoke-free inhalation.

Hopefully the UCSF study will add to the pressure on the U.S. government to rethink its irrational ban on the medicinal use of marijuana — and its destructive attacks on patients and caregivers in states that have chosen to allow such use.

Rather than admit they have been mistaken all these years, federal officials can cite “important new data” and start revamping outdated and destructive policies.

Such legislation would bring much-needed relief to millions suffering from cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, arthritis and other debilitating illnesses.

7 thoughts on “867”

  1. I’d open that further to “Have distrust of all things that you do not directly experience” and try my very best to teach them critical thinking and analysis skills. It might not work at all, but it’s what I’d try to do.

  2. the media

    that’s another thing i have taught my son: have tremendous distrust of any public media, especially if the government is involved in some way…

  3. “But it’s safe! The doctor said it was safe.”

    So what stops the other types of amphetamines from being “safe” if taken in controlled environments with the backing of people who know what they’re doing?

    Luckily, my teacher only thought I was slow, not hyper. Although this was somewhat before the Ritalin kick, so I might have squeaked away from that even if it had happened.

  4. Well, bad decisions are going to happen, as part of the learning experience. The best a parent can do is teach their kid about how to avoid repeating bad decisions that have been found throughout history, and to trust that their kids will take the lessons to heart… or at least won’t end up dead if they do test the consequences of bad decisions themselves.

    I know, though, if/when I have a kid, I’ll want to be protective, possibly to the point of not trusting the child, because of all the media out there that says everyone else is out to get you and/or your kid. *sigh*

  5. What I find bitterly ironic is that we are super concerned about kids taking “street drugs”, but we have no issue with putting children on psychoactive medication for ADHD. Ritalin is an amphetamine, people.

  6. i don’t know about any of those other parents, but i trust my kid to make good decisions, and, with one exception, he hasn’t failed to do so… and in that one exception he was (more-or-less) responsible for his actions and didn’t try to lie or blame it on somebody else.

    but that’s a big part of the problem, i think… most parents don’t trust their kids to even know how to make good decisions, because they were never trusted themselves when they were kids, and so forth, back for many generations. ultimately, the problem appears to be paranoia that your kid is going to make bad decisions because, as a whole, society doesn’t trust their kids, and in general, other people. nothing will change until this underlying mistrust is addressed.

  7. Such paranoia that the kids are doing things with drugs. Admittedly, done wrong, a lot of those things can be harmful or deadly. Do these parents and administrators actually trust their children to make good decisions?

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