Latest News & Information on Medical Marijuana & CBD for Epilepsy Treatment.
- 5 min read
- Updated 448 days ago
Regardless of the type of epilepsy seizure you experience—from temporary confusion to a staring spell, from uncontrollable jerking to loss of consciousness, or even feelings of intense fear or anxiety—you live life dreading the next episode.
Some epilepsy patients tackle the disorder with surgery. Others try medication and just put up with debilitating side effects. And, still, others just sit, wait, and hope it will go away. But the future for epilepsy patients is changing fast, thanks to the cannabis Sativa plant. Scientists are tapping two active ingredients—cannabidiol, from hemp, and THC, from marijuana—to give people living with epilepsy new hope for preventing seizures.
The information in this article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis and does not replace seeing a mental health professional. If you think you are suffering from this disease, consult with a health professional immediately. To find a health professional in the Highbrow network, click here.
WHAT CAUSES EPILEPSY?
According to Mayo Clinic, epilepsy is a neurological disorder that triggers abnormal brain activity, which, in turn, prompts seizures and other unusual symptoms, including loss of consciousness.
The mystery of epilepsy begins with what causes it. Mayo Clinic reports that, for around 50 percent of epilepsy patients, doctors are unable to determine a cause for their condition. For the remainder of this population, the disorder may be linked to a variety of factors, such as:
- Trauma to the head
- Prenatal brain damage
- Autism, neurofibromatosis, and other developmental disorders
- Brain tumors, strokes, or other brain conditions
- AIDS, meningitis, and other infectious diseases
WHAT ARE THE COMMON TREATMENT OPTIONS?
According to Marihuana: the First Twelve Thousand Years, cannabis has been used around the world to treat epilepsy, along with fever, vomiting, pain, and inflammation. By the 1800s, western medicine had adopted the use of cannabis for a wide variety of medical conditions.
The cannabis Sativa plant hosts chemicals called cannabinoids. Two cannabinoids, in particular, have surfaced as potentially strong medical treatments for a variety of medical conditions. These cannabinoids are cannabidiol (CBD) and (tetrahydrocannabinol) THC, and they have changed the way that epilepsy patients are treating their disorder.
Quick-Read Primer on CBD vs. THC
THC is the key active ingredient in marijuana plants—the component that gets you high. As such, you will experience some degree of a high when you smoke marijuana, either medically or recreationally.
Although CBD, too, is an ingredient in the marijuana plant and will carry with it some THC, this second cannabis ingredient is also found in the hemp plant, which produces only very small amounts of THC. Products that contain pure forms of CBD will not get you high.
With this crucial distinction, it stands to reason that CBD and MMJ present different potential for treatment, depending upon the condition you are trying to treat. Growers and producers of various treatments have worked to master the art and science of developing strains of cannabis that feature specific quantities of both CBD and THC. They then package the resulting product and sell it to treat specific medical ailments.
"Charlotte's seizures dropped to between two and three nocturnal convulsions every month with this special strain of cannabis. "
How They Help Seizures
CBD helps stop seizures by working on the functionality of the endocannabinoid system (ES). This complex communications network extends throughout your body, connecting your brain and various organs so that signals can be transmitted to regulate neurotransmitter activity. Think of it as a reverse nervous system.
Some scientists think that CBD may bind to CB1 receptors located in memory-connected areas of your brain and throughout your nervous system. Upon binding, the CBD changes the flow of ions to and from neurons and helps modulate neurotransmitters.
What Science Says About Cannabis for Epilepsy
The American Epilepsy Society has kept a watchful eye on the medical research community, in hopes that it will soon yield more research to either confirm or dispel anecdotal evidence regarding cannabis’ use in treating epilepsy.
The organization got its wish in 2017 when researchers conducted a multinational, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. The study concluded that CBD reduced the frequency of convulsive seizures in the Dravet Syndrome, a rare, genetic form of epileptic encephalopathy, and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS).
Thanks to this breakthrough study, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved Epidiolex, a formulation of purified CBD to treat epileptic patients for children who are at least two years of age. The treatment does not create a “high” effect, as it contains only trace amounts of THC.
Crowdsharing Evidence: User Experiences Start to Mount
Eager to share the results of their experiences with cannabis-based epilepsy treatment with other patients, a growing number of people with epilepsy are conducting their own trials and studies and publishing them for others to review and consider.
In 2014, the mother of a girl who suffered 50 convulsive seizures daily from her Dravet syndrome, was told that the girl had “reached the end of the road.” Unwilling to concede that there was no way to help her daughter, mother Paige acted on a story she had read about a California parent treating their child’s seizures with cannabis.
Paige started treating her daughter, Charlotte, with a high concentration CBD-to-THC strain of cannabis. The strain now carries the name “Charlotte’s Web” in honor of its “famous” patient. Charlotte’s seizures dropped down to between two and three nocturnal convulsions every month with this special strain of cannabis.
You can read Paige’s account of her daughter’s epilepsy published in Epilepsia, along with a journaling of her using cannabis to crack Charlotte’s seizure code.
Common Questions About CBD
You can buy CBD in many forms from a growing number of providers. You can eat CBD in the form of gummies or capsules or drop it in liquid form under your tongue. The quickest way to feel the effects is to smoke it.
Many people hear that CBD comes from cannabis, and they immediately assume that any CBD treatment will make them high and turn them into addicts. For these doubters, we would like to reassure you that the World Health Organization (WHO) stated in 2018 that CBD “is safe, poses no health risks, and is non-addictive.”
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