Amidst ongoing debate about the therapeutic effects of cannabis, doctors at the Mayo Clinic have declared that they don’t think marijuana is an ideal treatment for teens with chronic pain.
In a commentary set to appear in the July issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, the physicians said there is no sufficient data that could prove marijuana’s benefits for teen pain patients. And even though medical marijuana may help in easing the symptoms of certain medical conditions, the consequences of using it may be more severe for adolescents.
The researchers described the cases of three high school-age patients at Mayo Clinic’s pediatric chronic pain clinic who reported regular marijuana use. Despite using pot, their pain worsened and they experienced impaired functioning and difficulty becoming more socially active.
According to the report, excessive doses of marijuana may induce symptoms that many chronic pain patients already experience, including dizziness, anxiety, sedation, fatigue, decreased reflexes, confusion, difficulty concentrating and a lack of motivation. Teens under the age of 16 who use marijuana may also put themselves at greater risk of developing psychosis. Similarly, smoking marijuana once a week has been linked to persistent cognitive damage in adolescents, the researchers note.
Teen pain patients should be screened for marijuana use and be given alternative treatments, such as biofeedback, acupuncture and physical therapy, the authors recommend.
“If you’re a pain patient, and you’re using this drug or others, narcotics as well, one of the side effects is to be out of it, and out of it when the goal of a pain rehab program is actually to get you into it,” Dr. J. Michael Bostwick, a Mayo Clinic psychiatrist and co-author of the report, said in a news release. “The whole point is function restoration, not further functional decline.”