Medical marijuana now covers autism, sleep apnea

MARSHALL — Autism and sleep apnea have recently been approved by the Minnesota State Legislature to qualify for use of medical marijuana to control symptoms.

Conditionally effective-patients with autism or sleep apnea can enroll July 1 and pick up medication Aug. 1.

There are a statute-set limited number of outlets in this state. There are four in the Twin Cities and four in outstate Minnesota, which include St. Cloud, Rochester, Moorhead and Hibbing,” said Dr. Tom Arneson, research manager at the Office of Medical Cannabis.

“I encourage people to try the proven therapies, first,” he said. “There’s not enough known about cannabis. A C-PAP is very effective in the treatment of sleep apnea, if used correctly.

“There are two types of cannabinoids,” Arneson said. Cannabinoids are the chemicals which give the cannabis plant its medical and recreational properties. Cannabinoids like THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) interact with different receptors in the body to produce a wide range of effects, such as feeling high.

“THC produces a ‘high,’ “ he said. “There is no ‘high’ with CBD and it does many good things.”

Synthetic THC is used in clinical trials, although, CBD is used more for the treatment of autism, Arneson said.

“There is even less known about how cannabinoids actually work on it, but it has something to do with working on the soft tissues in the brain.

“Trials show it decreases the often violent behavior that characterize autism and Tourette’s,” Arneson said. “It seems also to have anti-psychotic affect as well, but studies are not conclusive.”

Additionally, there are several things that can affect the decision of doctors to prescribe medical cannabis. They include heart conditions.

“Although atrial fibrillation might not be a deterrent,” Arneson said.

There are other warnings listed on the Office of Medical Marijuana website that work into making the decision to take medical cannabis, which Arneson recommended reading. They are as follows:

• Arneson said it’s important to talk with a doctor about any medical conditions you have.

• After you smoke marijuana, your heart rate can increase by 20 to 100 percent for up to three hours.

• Research suggests this effect can increase the risk for heart attack in the first hour after using the drug. This risk could be higher for people who are older or have existing heart disease.

• Research also suggests that use of the drug may increase the risk of schizophrenia in people who are vulnerable to it.

• Using marijuana can lead to dependency on the drug. An estimated 1 in 11 marijuana users will become addicted to the drug, according to NIDA.

The number goes up to about one in six among people who start using marijuana as teenagers.

There’s increasing evidence that marijuana may be harmful for adolescents.

Those who start using marijuana at a young age may be at greater risk for long-term or permanent effects on thinking and memory. They may also be at greater risk for developing psychosis later in life.

People who smoke marijuana are at greater risk for chronic bronchitis (a form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD) and infection, though there’s no evidence linking the drug to lung cancer.

Tell your doctor if you’re pregnant, might become pregnant, or are breastfeeding before using marijuana. Marijuana can be passed to infants through a mother’s breast milk. The drug can also affect the quality of a woman’s breast milk and how much she’s able to produce.

Children whose mothers used marijuana during pregnancy are at greater risk for difficulties with attention, memory, and problem-solving later in childhood.


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