Marijuana and Epilepsy — Here’s How Cannabis Helps Stop Seizures

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Epilepsy is neurological disorder which is characterized by recurring episodes of seizures.

The types of seizures that patients experience can vary from ones that are short and very subtle in intensity, to forceful and intense shaking that can last for hours on end.

In the most severe cases, it’s not unusual for patients to sustain physical injuries from the seizures, and the duration and frequency of these attacks can be detrimental for one’s overall quality of life.

Seizures can be caused by numerous factors, including brain injuries, tumors and infections. But for the majority of epilepsy patients, the cause of their epilepsy is completely unknown.

The seizures themselves are caused by an overabundant activity of neurons in the cerebral cortex section of the brain.

Epilepsy affects around 1% of the world’s population, and around 30% of the cases remain untreatable by modern medicine.

How cannabis helps reduce seizures

CBD is a non-psychotropic chemical compound unique to cannabis, which is responsible for a wide range of medical benefits.

One pharmaceutical company from the United Kingdom is having remarkable success with their plant-based 99% CBD cannabis medicine for epilepsy, called Epidiolex.

GW Pharmaceuticals was given a green light by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to perform a limited “compassionate use” clinical trial on Epidiolex.

The open-label study (which is a non-placebo type of study) was conducted with 214 patients (2 to 26 years old, average age of the patients was 11 years) who were given Epidiolex for 12 weeks.

All study participants had epilepsy which didn’t respond to any conventional treatments.

The results of the study showed that:

  • Seizures decreased by 54%
  • Participants who combined Epidiolex (99% CBD) with the anti-seizure medication clobazam (or Onfi) experienced a stronger response that those who weren’t on this particular drug.

Three gold-standard (double blind, placebo controlled) studies on the same CBD drug were conducted for more severe types of epilepsy – two trials studied the effects of Epidiolex in adults and children with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, and one study tested its effects in children with Dravet syndrome.

All three studies showed very encouraging results.

For patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, the studies revealed that Epidiolex was responsible for:

  • A decrease in “drop seizures” by more than 40%, while the placebo group showed less than a 20% reduction in seizures.

The Dravet syndrome study revealed:

  • An approximate 40% decrease of convulsive seizures, with the placebo group having only a 17% reduction.

Placebos can have strong effects, but these studies show that CBD could be a significant treatment for various epileptic diseases.

An important part of this narrative is the story of Charlotte Figi, who’s life was made livable again by a potent CBD strain that was especially designed for her.

Charlotte’s Web

Charlotte first started experiencing severe seizures when she was just 3 months old, and the number and intensity of these attacks became worse as she got older.

By the age of two, the seizures were happening frequently and lasted continuously for hours on end, and her family started seeing a decline in her cognitive abilities.

By the time she was three, Charlotte was no longer able to walk, talk or eat by herself. The seizures she experienced were so intense that her heart stopped working on several occasions, and her doctors put her in a medically induced coma to allow her body to rest from these excruciating episodes.

Charlotte was diagnosed with Dravet syndrome, a very serious form of epilepsy which is very difficult to control. The commonly used anti-seizure medications are not only ineffective but can also have dangerous side-effects.

Disappointed by the lack of conventional options her parents found a case online of a child who also had Dravet syndrome, and who was greatly aided by medicinal cannabis.

Compared to many seizure medications, CBD is much safer for use in small children, with the only common side effects being nausea and dizziness.

They decided to get in touch with the Stanley brothers, who own and run a medical dispensary in Colorado. The brothers were developing a new strain of cannabis at the time, who had minimal levels of THC (THC link), and was very rich in the non-psychotropic cannabinoid CBD.

Once she began her treatment with CBD-rich oil, everything changed. From being constantly attacked by severe seizures, she was now having just a few per month.

The quality of her life improved dramatically and she was now able to enjoy all the things a small child should, like playing, dancing and having plain old fun.

If you’d like to know more about this inspiring story, I strongly suggest you watch this wonderful TED lecture with Josh Stanley, one of the Stanley brothers who developed the Charlotte’s Web strain.

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