Marijuana and Epilepsy: Based on the data collected from 12 studies, here’s how cannabis is being used to treat seizures

Epilepsy is a broad term for neurological disorders that are characterized by recurring episodes of seizures.

The types of seizures that patients experience can vary from very short and subtle in intensity, to forceful and violent convulsions that can last for hours on end. In severe cases, it’s not unusual for sufferers to sustain physical injuries from seizures, and the duration and frequency of these attacks can be really detrimental for the patient’s quality of life.

The seizures themselves can be caused by numerous factors, including brain injuries, tumors, and infections. Unfortunately, for the majority of patients with epilepsy, the cause of the disease remains unknown.

Epilepsy is a broad term for neurological disorders that are characterized by recurring episodes of seizures.

The types of seizures that patients experience can vary from very short and subtle in intensity, to forceful and violent convulsions that can last for hours on end. In severe cases, it’s not unusual for sufferers to sustain physical injuries from seizures, and the duration and frequency of these attacks can be really detrimental for the patient’s quality of life.

The seizures themselves can be caused by numerous factors, including brain injuries, tumors, and infections. Unfortunately, for the majority of patients with epilepsy, the cause of the disease remains unknown.IMG 7101 e1531500606912 Marijuana and Epilepsy: Based on the data collected from 12 studies, here’s how cannabis is being used to treat seizures

What is the best cannabinoid for epilepsy?

As previously mentioned, because of a large number of different epileptic seizure types, and because of the difference between individuals and their unique chemistry, there’s no simple answer to this question.

Some scientists are adamant that the best possible option for the biggest percentage of epilepsy patients is using everything the cannabis plant has to offer, because consuming all elements from cannabis at the same time causes what’s called the “entourage effect”, where the all the cannabinoids and terpenes of that particular strain work to achieve the absolute health-boosting potential.

Even though this topic remains un-researched, a cannabis flower contains many other cannabinoids other than just THC and CBD, and the exact function and possible benefits of the majority of these cannabinoids are unfortunately still unknown.

The other cannabinoids are found in much smaller quantities than tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol but are nonetheless a valuable part of the plant. The exact cannabinoid formula for each specific kind of epilepsy remains elusive, but the evidence so far suggests that finding it is only a matter of time.

CBD for epilepsy

Cannabidiol is a non-psychotropic chemical compound unique to cannabis, which is responsible for a wide range of medical benefits. CBD is a very helpful compound for many epilepsy patients, although for some its benefits are minimal. The anticonvulsive effects of CBD are produced from several different molecular pathways.

Cannabidiol intensifies GABA receptors and lessens the activity of NMDA receptors. It is also capable of stabilizing ion channels and has neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory qualities.

CBD’s molecular cousin CBDV (or cannabidivarin) also seems to lessen seizures, and one study pointed out that CBDV is most efficient when consumed together with CBD.

A pharmaceutical company from the United Kingdom is having remarkable success with their plant-based 99% CBD cannabis medicine for epilepsy, called Epidiolex. GW Pharmaceuticals was given a green light by the US Food and Drug Administration to perform a limited “compassionate use” clinical trial on Epidiolex.

The open-label study, which is a non-placebo type of study, was conducted with 214 patients (2 to 26 years old, the average age of the patients was 11 years) who were given Epidiolex for 12 weeks. All the participants in the study had epilepsy which didn’t respond to any conventional treatments.

The results of the study showed that:Marijuana Medicine Marijuana and Epilepsy: Based on the data collected from 12 studies, here’s how cannabis is being used to treat seizures

  • Seizures decreased by 54%.
  • Participants who combined Epidiolex (99% CBD) with the anti-seizure medication clobazam (or Onfi) experienced a stronger response that those who weren’t on this particular drug.

Three gold-standard (double-blind, placebo-controlled) studies on the same CBD drug were conducted for more severe types of epilepsy—two trials studied (8) the effects of Epidiolex in adults and children with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, and one study tested its effects in children with the Dravet syndrome.

All three studies showed very hopeful results. For patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, the studies revealed that Epidiolex was responsible for:

“A decrease in seizures activity by more than 40%, while the placebo group showed less than a 20% reduction in seizures.”

The Dravet syndrome study revealed:

“An approximate 40% decrease of convulsive seizures, with the placebo group having only a 17% reduction.”

Placebos can have powerful effects, but nonetheless, these studies proved that CBD acts as a significant treatment method for several epileptic diseases.

THC and THCA for epilepsy

Even though cannabidiol works much better for epilepsy for most patients, in this 2014 study (10) tetrahydrocannabinol also showed some promising results.

Regrettably, for some patients it can have the opposite effect, acting as a proconvulsant, meaning it can create seizures. Because of which, it is very important to carefully consider all the options in order to figure out what compound (and exact strain) of cannabis suits your personal needs best.

THCA, the raw uncarboxylated form of THC also shows some anticonvulsant characteristics (11), and because it’s completely non-psychoactive like CBD, it can be a viable treatment method for children suffering from this disorder. On a somewhat separate note, one of the terpenes found in cannabis also showed seizure stopping abilities. Alpha-linalool exerts this quality in the study from 1999, and the researchers add that it functions best when combined with cannabinoids.

Another very important part of this complex narrative is the story of Charlotte Figi, whose life was saved with a potent CBD strain that was designed specifically for her.

Patient story: Charlotte’s Web

Charlotte first started experiencing severe seizures when she was just three months old, and the number and intensity of these attacks became worse as she got older. By the age of two, the seizures were happening frequently and lasted continuously for hours on end, and her family started seeing a decline in her cognitive abilities.

By the time she was three, Charlotte was no longer able to walk, talk or eat by herself. The seizures she experienced were so intense that her heart stopped working on several occasions, and her doctors put her in a medically induced coma to allow her body to rest from these excruciating episodes. Charlotte was diagnosed with the Dravet syndrome, a very serious form of epilepsy which is very difficult to control. The commonly used anti-seizure medications are not only ineffective but can also have dangerous side-effects.

Disappointed by the lack of conventional options her parents found a case online of a child who also had the Dravet syndrome, and who was greatly aided by medicinal cannabis.

Compared to many seizure medications, CBD is much safer for use in small children, with the only common side effects being nausea and dizziness.

They decided to get in touch with the Stanley brothers, who own and run a medical dispensary in Colorado. The brothers were developing a new strain of cannabis at the time, which had minimal levels of THC, and was very rich in the non-psychotropic cannabinoid CBD. Once she began her treatment with CBD-rich oil, everything changed. From being constantly attacked by severe seizures, she was now having just a few per month.

If you’d like to know more about this inspiring story, I strongly suggest you watch this wonderful TED lecture with Josh Stanley, one of the Stanley brothers who developed Charlotte’s Web strain.

In this additional video, you can hear from Charlotte’s parents about their experiences and thoughts on CBD treatment: I want to share with you several more videos about kids who have been greatly helped by cannabis treatment. Over the last few years, these cases have become increasingly common.

This video introduces us to Gwenevere, who’s epilepsy ranged from tonic to myoclonic with 40 to 50 seizures a day, but with the assistance of CBD, the story completely changed.

Here’s another wonderful example of how CBD works: Alexis Bortell, 12, and her family decided to move from Texas to Colorado so they could access CBD oil to treat Alexis’s seizures. Since she began treatment with the oil on a regular basis, Alexis has been seizure free for a thousand days.

For additional reading, here is another case of a young girl treated with CBD oil for FIRES syndrome.

Further scientific breakthroughs are still definitely needed, but looking at the existing body of evidence it becomes apparent that cannabis is an extremely promising treatment for epilepsy. Surely, a deeper understanding of its mechanisms will liberate more people from the clutches of this devastating condition.

 

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