Of patients with epilepsy, almost a third have a treatment-resistant form. This form is associated with high morbidity and increased mortality. The goal of the study below is to determine if adding Cannabidiol (CBD) to antiepileptic regimens would be safe, well-tolerated, and effective in treating treatment-resistant epileptic children and young adults.
Epilepsy is a chronic disorder characterized by “recurrent, unprovoked seizures.” The disease is chronic so it must be managed in the long-term. If a person has two unprovoked seizures (or one unprovoked seizure with the likelihood of more), they will be diagnosed with epilepsy. The seizures must also not be caused by a known, reversible medical condition, such as alcohol withdrawal or extremely low blood sugar.
Here is the full scientific article if you wish to download it.
Epilepsy can be related to a brain injury or genetic predisposition, but mainly the cause remains unknown. The term epilepsy does not indicate anything about the triggers of seizures or their severity. Many with epilepsy have a few or more types of seizures. They also may develop symptoms of other neurological problems.
Any type of person can develop epilepsy. It does only have an onset in children. Actually, seizures begin in people over the age of 65 nearly as often as children. Seizures in the elderly population are common after effects of other health problems, like heart disease and stroke.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a cannabinoid found in the cannabis sativa plant. Unlike it’s infamous cousin, Δ⁹-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), it is not psychoactive. This means CBD does not make the user experience the “high” associated with marijuana.
Though THC is the most plentiful cannabinoid in the marijuana plant, CBD is the most plentiful chemical agent in the hemp plant. Both of the plants are under the cannabis sativa genome. Medical marijuana has become legalized in as many as 30 U.S. states and the capital, the District of Columbia (Washington D.C.).
However, even in states not allowing medical marijuana, CBD derived from industrial hemp with less than .3% THC is more likely accessible. Though CBD is not on prescription, a doctor can give advice on the possible efficacy and if the treatment is viable for you to explore.
From January 15th 2014 to January 15th 2015, 214 patients were enrolled in the below study. Over the year, 162 of those patients had at minimum a 12 week follow-up after the first dose of CBD and are included in the safety and tolerability data. 137 of the patients were included in the efficacy data. In the studied group, 33 of the patients had Dravet syndrome and 31 patients had Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. The rest of the patients had intractable epilepsies of varying causes and types.
Of the 162 patients in the safety group, adverse side effects were reported in 128. Adverse side effects reported in more than 10% of patients included:
Five patients discontinued treatment because of an adverse event. A majority experience mild to zero side effects, but 48 patients reported serious adverse events. There was one sudden death but it was unrelated to CBD, the study drug in question. The most severe reported adverse effect, perhaps related to their use of cannabidiol was status epilepticus. Status epilepticus is a dangerous condition where epileptic episodes follow in quick succession without time for recovery of consciousness between them.
However in spite of adverse effects, the average monthly frequency of motor seizures was at 30.0 before the trial. Over the twelve-week-long treatment period,the average monthly frequency dropped to 15.8. This means 36.5% was the average reduction in monthly motor seizures. According to the researchers who published the study:
Our findings suggest that Cannabidiol [CBD] might reduce seizure frequency and might have an adequate safety profile in children and young adults with highly resistant to treatment epilepsy.
In order to progress, we require further randomized, controlled trials. Due to the long prohibition of medical cannabis in the West, studies have been minimal and funding has been hard to obtain. As laws and public awareness are shifting, we will ideally gain a better sense of how effective cannabinoids can be in lessening seizures.