The side effects of the most commonly prescribed stimulant medications (like Adderall or Ritalin) for ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) are truly frightening: higher blood pressure, loss of appetite, weight loss, stomach upset/pain, nausea/vomiting, dizziness, headache, diarrhea, dry mouth, fever and nervousness. Those are considered normal; severe side effects include numbness or pain in extremities, dangerously prolonged erections in male patients, uncontrollable teeth grinding, irregular heartbeat and seizures. That’s a very long list of serious side effects, and it would be enough to have any parent considering their options.
Amy Renee Cunningham is a 31-year-old mother of two boys who lives in Meswick, Michigan, and she allegedly decided to try to treat her sons with cannabis instead of the pharmaceutical drugs they were being prescribed. She allegedly gave her 12-year-old son access to smoked cannabis in lieu of his prescribed medications for ADHD. It has been reported that her 10-year-old was also using cannabis with her permission to deal with emotional issues. Both the children and the mother spoke with Child Protective Services about their use of cannabis as an alternative medicine, and the predictable fallout ensued.
Currently, Cunningham faces not only delivery/manufacture of marijuana charges but third-degree child abuse charges as well. While parents should not be making major medical decisions without proper guidance from a physician or other healthcare professional, it hardly seems reasonable to call her decision to pursue a medication with fewer dangerous side effects abuse. At worst, it was a misguided effort to help her sons.
While Michigan is a medical marijuana state and children are allowed to participate in the state’s medical marijuana program, neither of Cunningham’s sons had a doctor recommendation or a state-issued medical marijuana ID card. She has made statements that she is attempting to obtain a physician’s recommendation for her sons, but it is unlikely she will succeed. Michigan has a very specific list of qualifying medical conditions, and ADHD is not included on that list. Depending on the nature of the emotional issues her younger son suffers, it is possible he could qualify for a medical marijuana card if his issues are rooted in PTSD, which is a qualifying condition.
For the time being, however, her charges stand. Now, in addition to struggling with ADHD and emotional issues, her sons have to deal with the stress of having their mother prosecuted in a small community. Unless new information comes to light, or there is a major shift in Michigan’s policy toward medical marijuana, it is likely this family will have to struggle through a protracted trial process and the inevitable involvement of family court and mandatory counselling and educational services.