© 2018 Miraculo Inc. All Rights Reserved
Cannabis as a treatment for epilepsy isn’t exactly a new idea, however, the use of medicinal marijuana has become increasingly popular over recent years. The Arabs were actually one of the first groups to use marijuana as an anti-epilepsy treatment during medieval Islamic times. Some medical practices come and go throughout the years, but cannabis is a special exception. Though its popularity waned over time, marijuana is making a come back in the medical world.
The return of cannabis in medicine has much to do with patients suffering from seizures, so maybe the Arabs were on to something. The New England Journal of Medicine recently published research from a trial of cannabidiol, or CBD, for drug-resistant seizures in the Dravet Syndrome. This was a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial that included 120 children and young adults who have the Dravet syndrome and drug-resistant seizures. The primary focus was to observe the change in convulsive-seizure frequency while administering either a placebo or CBD solution. The results could mean a great change for many patients who experience convulsive seizures.
Dravet syndrome is a rare and severe form of epilepsy that begins in infancy. It can be triggered by hot temperatures and high fever. It is associated with convulsive seizures, which can involve loss of consciousness, involuntary jerking, and muscle stiffness along with an array of other effects. Most often these seizures last between 1-3 minutes, however, in extreme situations the patient can experience a seizure between 5-10 minutes, leaving them in need of immediate emergency hospital treatment. This condition not only affects the quality of life for the patient and family, but it can also be life-threatening. Many drugs that are currently available don’t work for those with seizure disorders, specifically those with Dravet syndrome. Up to 20% of children with the disorder die from seizures before the age of 20. Treatments are currently limited, and many of those who fall victim to these intense seizures find no relief in the treatments that are offered. Could CBD be a viable option for these patients?
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a constituent of the cannabis plant. It differs from its tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, a counterpart in ways of medicinal properties. However, one of the most recognized differences between CBD and THC is that CBD does not produce a high. CBD is typically administered in oil form and is specifically considered for children who experience seizures because of its non-psychoactive properties.
This recent study from the New England Journal of Medicine came away with new found hope for patients with drug-resistant seizures. Out of 120 patients in the trial, some of them reported experiencing as many as 4 to 1,717 convulsive seizures per month. During this study, the patients who received CBD had a 39% drop in seizures as opposed to the placebo group which only had a 13% decrease. Five percent of the children were completely seizure free during the study period, which lasted 14 weeks.
Because Dravet syndrome is a rare condition, not many patients are available for trial studies. Though the above-referenced study is by all medical standards top rate, it still deals with a relatively low number of participants and stands alone in its high-quality research. More studies are needed to fully comprehend what CBD has to offer for those with Dravet syndrome, and those with milder forms of epilepsy.
Epilepsy is not a very cut and dry disorder. To put it simply, it is the result of abnormal brain activity. This could result from abnormal brain development, swelling of the brain, injury or infection. Though Dravet syndrome isn’t common, epilepsy as a whole is not quite so rare.
Approximately every 1 in 26 people will develop epilepsy in their lifetime. The extent of the effects of epilepsy differs from patient to patient, however, it is most common that new cases are found in children during their first year. And though the reason for developing epilepsy is across the board, approximately half of patients with epilepsy do not know the cause. Perhaps an even more alarming fact is that 34% of deaths in children are due to epilepsy or seizure related accidents. This is no small problem, especially given that some patients can’t even find relief from their symptoms with currently available medications. To some of these patients and their families, this could mean a dead end road.
However, now that CBD is being clinically studied, and more and more people are using it as a treatment for their seizures, perhaps it isn’t too frivolous to hope for a better future for epilepsy patients.
As with any drug or medication, the CBD oil doesn’t seem to work for everyone and can come with its own set of side effects. Some of the patients in the New England Journal of Medicine study experienced some nausea, tiredness, and vomiting. Some even left the study because of the side effects. Others could see no difference after using the CBD solution. As with any medical substance, it is best to consult a physician before using. However, being able to have CBD as an option for treatment could change the world of many seizure sufferers.
Those who have epilepsy are different and unique, as is the intensity of their illness. Along with these differences comes different needs for medications, and different reactions to those medications. Having a wide pool of choices for treatment could only help to improve the quality of life for so many victims of seizure disorders.
Though the rate of seizure disorders is high in the United States, the amount of research on it is relatively low compared to that of other neurological disorders. This is largely due to lack of funding. While epilepsy is the second leading cause of death from neurological disorders and affects more people in the United States than MS, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and Parkinson’s put together, its research funding pales in comparison to each of these disorders. While the National Institute of Health has increased their funding for Parkinson’s by 44% and Alzheimer’s by 28%, it has only increased funding for epilepsy by 5%. With numbers like these, it’s no wonder we are lacking in proper understanding and sufficient care for seizure disorder patients.
When one study is successfully done on a medicine, one can anticipate that more studies will follow behind. This is certainly the hope for many who are dealing with drug-resistant seizures. Because cannabis qualifies in most states as a schedule 1 drug, even with medical research, many patients could find a roadblock to their relief. However, the more research that is done on CBD, the more likely it is to become welcomed in all states as a suitable option for medical treatments. With CBD having no psychoactive effects, and the fear of a high being taken away, it is safe to say that bundling CBD into the same category as the entire cannabis plant could soon be seen as unnecessary. This could make a world of difference for seizure sufferers.
Before this trial study, much of the other research was uncontrolled and spotty. Now that a successfully controlled, double-blinded trial has been completed, it opens the door for more studies to be done, which is critical for the epileptic community.
You can read more about using marijuana products to treat epilepsy here.