The rise in marijuana’s popularity among American youth since the late 1960s coincided with a surge in diagnosed cases of attention deficit disorder and its hyperactive variant, ADHD, a condition that Dr. Tom O’Connell likened to a “pediatric anxiety syndrome.” A retired thoracic surgeon and former captain in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, O’Connell had treated hundreds of wounded American soldiers during the Vietnam War. He came out of retirement in 2000 and began seeing medical-cannabis applicants in Oakland.
Over the years, O’Connell would compile a database and analyze usage patterns of six thousand patients. His findings would challenge both prohibitionists and drug-policy reformers who concurred that reefer ought to be a no-no for under-twenty-one-year-olds. “Each side in the modern pot debate is wedded to its own fairytale,” O’Connell blogged. He bemoaned that reform leaders “were nearly as clueless as the Feds — and equally susceptible to doctrinaire thinking when it comes to adolescent drug initiation and usage.”
Why do some young people who experiment with cannabis become daily users? Are their claims of medical use credible? Dr. O’Connell found that the vast majority of medical-marijuana applicants were already chronic users before they walked through the door of the dispensary. (People who try marijuana and have an unpleasant experience generally don’t go to physicians for letters of recommendation.) The everyday smokers he interviewed had remarkably similar medical and social histories. O’Connell determined that the main reason young people smoke cannabis on a regular basis is because it is a safe and effective way to relieve anxiety and other mood disorders associated with insecurity and low self-esteem.
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Originally published by Project CBD at “ADHD: Pediatric Anxiety“. Reprinted with permission.