Cannabis and Epilepsy
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by recurrent seizures that are caused by abnormal brain activity. Approximately 50 million people worldwide suffer from epilepsy, and it affects people of all ages, races, and ethnicities. While there are many treatments available for epilepsy, including antiepileptic drugs, surgery, and dietary changes, there is growing interest in the use of cannabis as a treatment option.
In this article, we will explore the research into cannabis and epilepsy and what it means for patients with this condition.
Cannabis and Epilepsy: Introduction
Cannabis, also known as marijuana, is a plant that contains more than 100 different chemical compounds, known as cannabinoids. The two most well-known cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the psychoactive component of cannabis and is responsible for the “high” associated with marijuana use, while CBD does not have psychoactive effects and has been shown to have potential therapeutic benefits. At the Pottery, we’re the cheapest LA dispensary with both quality THC and CBD products.
Research into the use of cannabis for epilepsy began in the 1970s, but it was not until the 2010s that there was a surge of interest in this area. This was due in part to the discovery of the anticonvulsant properties of CBD and the development of strains of cannabis that are high in CBD and low in THC. These strains, often referred to as “medical cannabis,” have been used to treat a variety of conditions, including epilepsy.
One of the most well-known cases of cannabis being used to treat epilepsy is that of Charlotte Figi, a young girl with a severe form of epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome. Charlotte’s parents turned to medical cannabis when traditional treatments failed to control her seizures. They found that a strain of cannabis high in CBD and low in THC significantly reduced her seizures, and her story gained widespread attention.
Since then, there have been numerous studies on the use of cannabis for epilepsy. A review of the literature published in the journal Epilepsy & Behavior in 2017 found that there is “moderate-quality evidence” to support the use of CBD-enriched cannabis products for the treatment of seizures in people with epilepsy.
A Landmark Study
One of the largest studies to date on the use of CBD for epilepsy is the Epidiolex clinical trials. Epidiolex is a purified form of CBD that has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of two rare forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. The clinical trials showed that Epidiolex significantly reduced the frequency of seizures in patients with these conditions.
Another study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2018 found that a pharmaceutical-grade CBD product called ZX008 significantly reduced seizure frequency in children with Dravet syndrome.
While the research on cannabis and epilepsy is promising, there are still many unanswered questions. For example, it is unclear what dose of CBD is most effective, and whether the benefits of CBD are due to its anticonvulsant properties or its ability to modulate the endocannabinoid system. Additionally, there are concerns about the long-term effects of cannabis use, particularly in young children whose brains are still developing.
A Promising Early Start
Despite these uncertainties, many patients with epilepsy and their families are turning to cannabis as a treatment option. In a survey of parents of children with epilepsy conducted by the Epilepsy Foundation in 2019, 64% of respondents reported using medical cannabis to treat their child’s seizures.
The research into cannabis and epilepsy is still in its early stages, but the results so far are promising. CBD-enriched cannabis products have been shown to reduce seizure frequency in some patients with epilepsy, and pharmaceutical-grade CBD products like Epidiolex have been approved by the FDA for the treatment of certain forms of epilepsy. However, more research is needed to determine the optimal dose and delivery method of CBD, as well as to assess the long-term effects of cannabis use in patients with epilepsy.
In addition, it is important to note that the use of cannabis for epilepsy should always be done under the guidance of a healthcare professional. This is because cannabis can interact with other medications and may have adverse effects in some individuals, particularly those with a history of psychiatric disorders.
Furthermore, there are legal and regulatory issues surrounding the use of cannabis for medical purposes. While medical cannabis is legal in some states and countries, it is still illegal under federal law in the United States, which can make it difficult for patients to access and for researchers to conduct clinical trials.
Despite these challenges, there is growing interest in the potential of cannabis as a treatment option for epilepsy. In addition to CBD, other cannabinoids such as THC and cannabigerol (CBG) have also shown anticonvulsant properties in preclinical studies, and there is a need for further research to explore their potential therapeutic benefits.
Overall, the research into cannabis and epilepsy is a rapidly evolving field, and it has the potential to improve the lives of millions of people living with this condition. As more studies are conducted and more data becomes available, we will gain a better understanding of the role that cannabis can play in the treatment of epilepsy, and how it can be used safely and effectively to improve patient outcomes.
Cannabis for Drug-Resistant Epilepsy
Another area of research that is being explored is the use of cannabis for drug-resistant epilepsy. Drug-resistant epilepsy is a form of epilepsy where patients do not respond to traditional antiepileptic drugs, and it can be particularly challenging to treat. In a small study published in the journal Neurology in 2015, researchers found that a cannabis extract containing both CBD and THC significantly reduced seizure frequency in patients with drug-resistant epilepsy. While these results are promising, larger studies are needed to confirm these findings and to determine the safety and efficacy of cannabis for drug-resistant epilepsy.
It is important to note that while CBD has been shown to have anticonvulsant properties, not all cannabis products are the same. The quality and composition of cannabis products can vary widely, and some products may contain harmful contaminants. In addition, there is a lack of standardization in the labeling of cannabis products, which can make it difficult for patients and healthcare professionals to determine the appropriate dose and composition.
To address these issues, there is a growing movement towards the development of pharmaceutical-grade cannabis products. These products are standardized and rigorously tested to ensure consistent quality and composition, which can improve patient safety and provide healthcare professionals with more confidence in prescribing cannabis for epilepsy.
The research into cannabis and epilepsy is still in its early stages, but it shows promise as a treatment option for patients with this condition. CBD-enriched cannabis products have been shown to reduce seizure frequency in some patients with epilepsy, and pharmaceutical-grade CBD products like Epidiolex have been approved by the FDA for the treatment of certain forms of epilepsy. However, more research is needed to determine the optimal dose and delivery method of CBD, as well as to assess the long-term effects of cannabis use in patients with epilepsy.
It is important for patients with epilepsy to work closely with their healthcare professionals when considering the use of cannabis as a treatment option. Patients should also be aware of the legal and regulatory issues surrounding the use of cannabis for medical purposes, as well as the potential risks and benefits of using cannabis for epilepsy. With continued research and development, cannabis may become an important tool in the treatment of epilepsy and improve the lives of patients with this condition.