Epilepsy is a serious life threatening condition that affects around 5.1 million adults and children in the U.S., it causes debilitating seizures and can be very difficult to treat. Often times patients exhaust pharmaceutical anti-seizure medication options with no effect on their condition; many are turning to cannabidiol (CBD) as a potential alternative.
CBD has been studied to improve the functioning of the endocannabinoid system and helping to stop seizures. The endocannabinoid system maintains balance in the body and does so by regulating the activity of neurotransmitters–sending messages to neurons to increase or decrease activity. Seizures are caused by an over-excitation of neurotransmitter activity, thus the endocannabinoid system regulates the activity of neurotransmitters and keeps this over-excitation in check.
CBD has been studied to potentially work as an antiepileptic agent, also it does not have the psychoactive properties of THC which is optimal for children and/or adults that wish to not encounter those effects. With that being said, CBD is not a cure-all for epilepsy; many show improvement in their condition but, there are patients that do not respond well to CBD. Physicians are hesitant to recommend CBD-only treatment, there have not been enough clinical studies conducted and the scientific community has yet to establish cannabis as an effective treatment for epilepsy and it’s side effects.
Stories About CBD
Parents like those of Charlotte Figi and Mathias Alejandro Gonzalez have turned to CBD because of their children’s conditions and the lack improvement shown after only using already existing epilepsy medications.
- A Colorado girl, Charlotte Figi was experiencing as many as 300 grand mal seizures per week and had lost her ability to eat, walk, and talk. Charlotte’s Web, a strain high in CBD, helped reduce Figi’s seizures down to only a few a month and lended a hand in her cognitive recovery.
- 15-year-old Mathias Alejandro Gonzalez of Paraguay, has been diagnosed with autism and also suffers from Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, this form of epilepsy causes him to have several types of seizures all of which do not respond well to conventional types of medication. Gonzalez’s parents petitioned Paraguay for a permit to import RSHO (Real Scientific Hemp Oil) stating that it was their son’s basic human right to pursue cannabis as an alternative treatment. Paraguay has approved permits for the import of RSHO to those patients who are suffering from Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome and allowed families to continue treatment that actually improves quality of life and is more cost effective than traditional medication.
As previously stated, CBD has the potential to improve the functioning of the endocannabinoid system by keeping the over-excitation of neurotransmitter activity in check. This “over-excitation” is what causes seizures in those that have epilepsy.
- Glutamate causes excitation of neurotransmitters, CBD helps to suppress glutamate activity.
- CBD has the potential to be an anti-inflammatory agent, it has been studied to reduce inflammation of the brain which often makes seizures worse.
- Reduction of seizures, increase in appetite, improvement in motor skills, and the decrease in usage of antiepileptic drugs (AEDs)–along with their side effects–are among the improvements epileptic patients are reporting when using CBD.
- CBD is not subject to the same regulations as FDA approved medications, henceforth, items sold through a dispensary or even mail ordered purchases might be mislabeled and/or contaminated.
- Clinical studies have shown large numbers of patients experiencing adverse side effects when being treated with CBD, such as: sleepiness, fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting, and decreased appetite. Other patients have shown more severe side effects than those listed above, but it is said that those problems were caused by interactions with other AEDs.
- No reduction found in non-convulsive seizures.
Interactions with other drugs…
CBD, antiepileptic drugs (AEDs), and all other medications are metabolized by the same enzymes. So, patients with epilepsy should not add CBD to their regimen of medication without being under the supervision of a doctor that is familiar with cannabis medication.
A year-long study conducted at the New York University Langone Medical Center published in The Lancet Neurology:
Write-up of a study of cannabidiol being used as treatment of epileptic seizures done by the University of Alabama at Birmingham:
Article in The New England Journal of Medicine titled, “Trial of Cannabidiol for Drug-Resistant Seizures in the Dravet Syndrome”: