Epilepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by the onset of recurrent seizures due to distinct changes in brain activity and nerve charges. Most epileptic patients experience some sort of cognitive, psychiatric, and psychological symptoms as well as a significant impairment of their quality of life. The disease progresses as the damage to brain tissue and function increases, which may require a combination of antiepileptic drugs at high doses to manage the seizures. Therefore, epilepsy treatment usually entails a variety of adverse effects that may increase the burden of the disease. Therefore, it is important to find safer alternatives which can act on the brain efficiently.
The present of specific cannabinoid receptors in the brain has grasped the attention of the scientists and researchers to the potential effects on epilepsy. Two major plant-derived cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are known for their therapeutic uses. The current study reviewed the effect of cannabinoids in epilepsy treatment.
Here is the full scientific article if you wish to download it.
Initial evidence of the role of cannabinoids in patients with epilepsy
The first studies concerned with using cannabinoids in epilepsy were primarily focused on THC and other cannabinoids to have a specific antiepileptic action in the experimental animals via blockage of certain seizure-related receptors in the brain. Subsequently, it has been observed that marijuana users were less frequently admitted to hospital for the onset of seizures, when compared to those epileptic patients admitted for other causes. Actually, this provided a clear evidence of a relationship between seizure amelioration and marijuana constituents.
THC treatment for epilepsy
Marijuana contains THC as a major constituent that cause behavioral, cognitive, impaired memory, and mood-changing symptoms. They act on their receptors in the brain, CB1 receptors. Therefore, epilepsy treatment using THC should include considering these adverse effects. THC has several beneficial actions against nerve excitation and changes in nervous charges. However, there are some reports that link the incidence of seizures with marijuana smoking at high rates. Therefore, it is unclear whether marijuana has an anticonvulsant or stimulate convulsion from dose to dose.
CBD treatment for epilepsy
Generally, CBD has a better safety profile in terms of the induced side effects. Only drowsiness was reported in one study on patients with epilepsy. However, CBD was not associated with marked improvements in seizures in most of the patients. This might be attributed to the specific actions of CBD on their receptors (mainly CB2) which are located in the immune system rather than the nervous system. In addition, studies conducted to investigate CBD effects are of low quality and thus can be criticized.
Cannabinoids cannot be exclusively used for the treatment of epilepsy according to the available evidence. THC has several side effects that limit its application, whereas the efficacy of CBD was poorly demonstrated. Further studies are required utilizing CBD and other cannabinoids with minimal side effects in properly-designed studies.