A little boy from Ireland has a new lease on life thanks to marijuana. When 3-year-old Tristan Cahalane was diagnosed with Dravet Sydnrome, a rare genetic condition that is diagnosed in infancy and causes frequent epileptic seizures, his mother Yvonne was told that there was virtually no hope for a cure. However, Yvonne’s research uncovered a potential cure that took her to the United States: cannabis oil, which cannot be purchased in Ireland, even for medical use.
The chances for Tristan to live a normal life without treatment seemed grim. Dravet Syndrome sufferers are plagued by a number of health concerns, the most noticeable of which are frequent, debilitating seizures that strike out of nowhere and can lead to SUDEP (sudden explained death in epilepsy). Other symptoms include global developmental delays, sleeping difficulties, and sensory disorders.
Yvonne’s move to the United States split the family, as husband John had stay behind to continue working. She made her way to Colorado, where cannabis oil has been decriminalized, and began administering the controversial substance to Tristan. The results were nearly instantaneous and verging on miraculous.
“Tristan is three months seizure free now. He is a complete devil. He’s getting into mischief, everything you would expect from an active healthy three-year-old,” Yvonne told The Sun. “He has been able to come off seven medications while before if we tried to wean him off any kind of drug he would end up in hospital.”
“He is doing so well now,” the elated mother continued. “He is counting on his fingers, he’s singing his ABCs and he’s eating well, which is in sharp contrast to previously when we would have sat at a table for hours trying to get him to eat. It has completely changed his life. He’s doing great. He gets physio, speech language development, as he had when he was in Ireland.”
Marijuana has been used for medical purposes since ancient times, but the use of cannabis oil as a treatment for seizures in children is a relatively new topic of study. FDA-approved epilepsy drugs have proven remarkably ineffective, with up to 30 percent of patients still experiencing regular seizures. The vast number of families continuing to suffer even after undergoing the full suite of common treatments has pushed many to experiment with cannabis.
As of 2014, the American Epileptic Society cautions parents that there is an abundance of anecdotal evidence but not enough scientific evidence to prove that cannabis is a risk-free alternative treatment. However, the anecdotal evidence is growing difficult to ignore. Yvonne appeared on Irish television to inform the public about her success with using cannabis to treat Tristan. A national poll held shortly after showed that 80 percent of Irish people want cannabis legal for medical use.
Aside from treating seizures, medical marijuana has an immense variety of thoroughly documented applications: treating anxiety; lessening the symptoms of multiple sclerosis; helping to treat glaucoma; thwarting a harmful tobacco addiction; relieving arthritis symptoms; enhancing metabolism; easing PTSD episodes; aiding chemotherapy patients; and a slew of other positive effects.
Who, then, continues to oppose the legalization of medical marijuana? Many political candidates remain cautious about expressing outright support or disdain for medical marijuana, generally deferring to states to enact their own laws surrounding its legality. Twenty-two states have banned both the sale and possession of marijuana for any purpose.
Among those states, though, certain troubling links have been found between powerful trade organizations, anti-marijuana ad campaigns, and the pharmaceutical industry. In these same states, the success of medical marijuana has proven dangerous to Big Pharma’s bottom line, as the all-natural remedy often provides safer, cheaper, and more effective treatment.
Cannabis has proven especially effective in combating conditions like chronic pain and anxiety, whose Big Pharma treatments are notoriously overprescribed and highly addictive. The threat that medical marijuana poses to these cash cows seems like a surefire way to compel the massively wealthy industry to get involved in politics.
Sure enough, Big Pharma has enjoyed the fruits of a cozy relationship with Washington politicians, thanks in no small part to the $2.3 billion that it has spent lobbying over the last decade. Other than high-profile scandals – like the EpiPen debacle and the case of alleged price gouger Martin Shkreli – Congress appears complacent to allow Big Pharma to run wild, steadily increasing prescription drug prices over the years while closing off access to cheaper generic drug equivalents.
Big Pharma’s shadowy control over lawmakers has also resulted in a chilling effect on potentially life-saving research into the benefits of medical marijuana, as universities wither under draconian regulations that establish exacting standards for the cultivation of cannabis for study. In the case of three-year-old Tristan, that kind of red tape could mean the difference between a happy life or one filled with suffering and pain.