You may have heard controversial stories in the news about parents giving their epileptic children marijuana to stop their seizures.
In one case, a 5-year-old with Dravet syndrome was suffering from 300 seizures a week. Although traditional medications were unable to help, a high-CBD cannabis oil reduced her seizures to just 2-3 a month.
In this post, we’ll explore the evidence that cannabis can help patients suffering from various forms of epilepsy.
Does Medical Cannabis Work for Epilepsy and Seizures?
Before we discuss whether cannabis works for seizures, it’s important to point out that there are 2 main compounds found in marijuana: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the ingredient that makes a user feel “high” and is associated with some side effects. On the other hand, CBD is non-psychoactive with significantly fewer side effects.
Although THC has many other medical benefits, CBD is believed to have a better anticonvulsant profile.
In a few 2017 studies, a purified CBD product reduced the number of seizures in Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome patients. This was the first class 1 evidence that CBD can help control seizures in people with specific epilepsy syndromes.
A 2018 review of research investigated 6 randomized control trials and 30 observational studies on CBD and seizures. Most of the participants in the study were children with severe forms of epilepsy, such as Dravet syndrome or Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. The research team summarized that:
- 48% of patients reduced their seizures by 50% or more
- 1 in 10 patients became seizure-free in 14 observational studies
- CBD improved quality of life
- The medication was generally well-tolerated with mild effects
In 2018, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved Epidiolex, a liquid form of CBD that’s taken orally. It’s the first FDA-approved medication designed to treat Dravet syndrome seizures in patients 2 years and older. Although the drug hasn’t been approved by Health Canada, similar high-CBD mediations are available with a prescription.
Cannabis Compared to Other Epilepsy Drugs
If you’re considering medical cannabis to treat seizures, you should know how it compares to traditional medications.
Patients are often prescribed one or more anticonvulsant medications. These medications can include side effects such as nausea, headaches, depression, sleep problems, liver failure and more. In addition, almost 30% of epileptic patients don’t respond to these drugs, leading to social isolation, unemployment, psychological issues and low marriage rates, according to research.
Patients who aren’t helped by traditional treatments may find fewer adverse effects with a CBD-based medication. In the review of research we discussed above, some of the most common side effects were drowsiness, diarrhea, and fever. Since CBD is non-psychoactive, patients don’t need to worry about feeling “high”.
How to Use Cannabis for Epilepsy and Seizures
Medical cannabis may help reduce or eliminate your seizures, but only when taken in the right form and dose. There are too many variables to self-medicate effectively. A medical marijuana doctor can help you find the best medication for you.
You should also know that purchasing a CBD-based product through an illegal dispensary is often unreliable. For your medication to be effective, it needs to be consistent and high-quality, which can be obtained by having a prescription.
If seizures are affecting your life, take action today. Book a no-obligation consultation.