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Medical interest in cannabis-derived chemical compounds, called phytocannabinoids, for treating refractory epilepsy is exponentially growing. Phytocannabinoids differ in effects from one another. There are as many as 100 cannabinoids in the cannabis sativa plant. The most infamous cannabinoid is Δ⁹-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC became identified and isolated in the 1960s as the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis. Cannabidiol (CBD), the other common medicinal cannabinoid is better suited to treat refractory epilepsy, particularly in youth patients.
Cannabis products high in THC, such as recreational marijuana, are not suitable for treating epilepsy, largely due to the undesired adverse effects of THC. As medical knowledge development, there has been an increase in use of CBD-enriched extracts in seizure disorders, particularly in child patients. Unlike THC, CBD has little to no adverse effects and is non-psychoactive. CBD cannot make the user “high,” as is typical associated with cannabis products.
Before this 2017 study, CBD’s improvement in seizure control, sleep, and behavior had been reported. Data interpretation proved difficult, however, due to the uncontrolled nature of collecting the data. There has been critical progress, however, with this 2017 study.
Three high-quality placebo-controlled adjunctive therapy trials documented the therapeutic benefits of CBD isolate in patients with Dravet syndrome and Gastaut syndrome. For the first time, there is class 1 evidence asserting CBD helps with seizure control in patients with particular epilepsy syndromes. In the trials, CBD was proven superior to the placebo in reducing the frequency of convulsive seizures and drop seizures in patients with Lennox Gastaut Syndrome. Convulsive seizures includes tonic-clonic, tonic, clonic, and atonic seizures.
One of the first conditions discovered to be benefited from CBD oil was epilepsy. Now a recent study by the American Epilepsy Society (AES) has confirmed the benefits of CBD in the treatment of epilepsy. While more research is needed, this is a great step in the right direction. Pure CBD can be used to reduce the convulsions in people who suffer from grand mal seizures. Eventually research may indicate seizures can be entirely successfully treated with CBD.