Can medical marijuana help kids with autism or ADHD?

Dr. Scott Hadland is a general pediatrician and adolescent specialist at Boston Children's Hospital and recently published a review on marijuana and developmental and pediatric conditions.
Dr. Scott Hadland is a general pediatrician and adolescent specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital and recently published a review on marijuana and developmental and pediatric conditions.

Marijuana policy in the United States is changing rapidly, with some states (including every state in New England) legally allowing marijuana to be used for medical reasons. Washington State and Colorado recently voted to allow the recreational use of marijuana, and Massachusetts may hold a similar ballot measure in 2016. It’s no surprise, then, that many parents wonder whether marijuana might have any benefits for certain pediatric conditions, and whether it’s safe for children.

A quick Facebook search shows that a number of groups have cropped up calling for medical marijuana for conditions like autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Some of these online groups point to studies showing that medical marijuana is helpful in these conditions. Other groups tell compelling stories about a child who was struggling with autism whose behavior was dramatically better after being treated with marijuana.

Before doctors recommend a new treatment, we always make sure that carefully conducted studies have answered two critical questions. First, does the treatment actually work? And second, is it harmful? In essence, we need to be sure that the benefits outweigh the risks.

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Kayla, Joel and Robbie’s story: Taking life with hemophilia one day at a time

joel hemophiliaHemophilia has always been part of Kayla Klein’s life. Her father, David, had the condition. Her son, 6-month-old Robbie (that’s him above), has it too.

For years, though, Kayla has also surrounded herself with the right people—people who know hemophilia and who have helped her and her husband Joel create a life where the condition isn’t something that happened to them. Rather, it’s part of their family’s normal. And they’re determined to make sure that it will never keep little Robbie—or them—down.

A life embedded in hemophilia

David died when Kayla was just shy of two. But it wasn’t from his hemophilia. Rather, like so many others in the 1980s and 90s, he died because the blood products he took to keep the disease under control were contaminated with HIV.

Hemophilia remained a lurking presence in her life growing up, but started coming to the foreground when she and Joel married. Because Kayla carries the hemophilia mutation in her genes, they knew there was a 50/50 chance that if they had a son he would have the condition himself.

When the couple started asking questions about hemophilia and family planning, a colleague of Kayla’s introduced them to Lori Dobson, a genetic counselor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Ultimately, after working with Dobson to understand their options, Kayla and Joel decided to just go for it.

“We realized that we could do lots of things and not have a baby with hemophilia, but could still have a baby with something else,” Kayla recalls. “We decided to just go ahead and see what happened.”

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Five strategies to keep your athlete engaged and positive after ACL surgery

christino-043 (2)About the blogger: Melissa Christino, MD, is an orthopedic sports medicine fellow in Boston Children’s Hospital’s Sports Medicine Division.

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears in children and teens can be challenging injuries. While the surgery for ACL reconstruction generally involves minimal hospital time, patients must complete six to nine months of aggressive physical therapy to rehabilitate the injured leg, help optimize results and prevent re-injury.

Recovering from an ACL injury can be more devastating to a young athlete than the injury itself, and it is important for parents to be aware of the psychological consequences that may accompany their child’s physical injury. Having a positive attitude has been shown to significantly help with rehabilitation and surgical outcomes.

How might my child feel after an ACL injury?

While it’s impossible to pinpoint exactly what any athlete is experiencing during recovery from ACL surgery, there are some common patterns.

Young athletes can often feel isolated and depressed during this time. Not only are they missing months and months of their sports seasons, but they are also taken away from the camaraderie of their teammates, unable to participate in activities that bring them happiness and fulfillment and are uncertain of how they will be able to perform once they return to sports. It can also be very hard for a developing child or adolescent to fully commit to what seems like endless rehabilitation with long-term results.

Parents, coaches, friends and teammates can help young athletes through the recovery process.

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Ketogenic diet turns around a boy’s severe epilepsy

ketogenic diet epilepsy
Sammy enjoys the coconut oil cookies that helped him become seizure-free.

In 2012, just before starting kindergarten, Sammy Meyers had the first of what would become thousands of seizures.

“I found him semi-unconscious,” recalls his mother, Becky. “I thought he was choking and checked to see if his airway was open, and then called 911. It didn’t even cross my mind that he was having a seizure.”

But Sammy had recently been falling a lot. The neurologist in the local emergency room in Albany, N.Y. diagnosed epilepsy, but thought it was a relatively benign form that medications could help.

Instead, Sammy got worse. “Within a matter of months, he went from four seizures a day to hundreds,” says Becky.

Sammy was having head-drop seizures, involving a sudden loss of muscle tone; myoclonic seizures, causing muscle jerking; and absence seizures. He would lose consciousness, sometimes so abruptly that his head would slam down on the table. Eventually, he was diagnosed with Doose syndrome (myoclonic astatic epilepsy), a severe form of generalized epilepsy that is known to be medication-resistant.

Through the Epilepsy Foundation of Northeastern New York, Becky knew of another child with Doose syndrome who had been treated with a high-fat, very low-carbohydrate diet called the ketogenic diet and was still seizure-free after four years.

The Albany neurologists were skeptical, so the family contacted the other child’s neurologist, Ann Bergin, MB, ScM, at Boston Children’s Hospital. “By this time, Sammy was having a seizure every 30 seconds to a minute,” says Becky.

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