Marijuana for Seizure Patients?
Medical marijuana has been shown to help a wide variety of ailments, one of which, is seizures. According to Epilepsy.com (1), 150,000 new cases of epilepsy are diagnosed each year, and over the course of a lifetime, 1 in 26 people will develop epilepsy at some point. Approximately, 2.2 million Americans (2) currently live with epilepsy in some form.
Although, seizures themselves are not a disease, they are a troubling and disruptive symptom of certain brain disorders and diseases including multiple forms of epilepsy, brain tumors, and chemical imbalances. A seizure occurs when there is a surge of electrical activity in the brain causing an imbalance in brain cell activity. Severity of seizures can range from hardly noticeable to incapacitating. There are multiple triggers that can cause seizures like flashing or bright lights, alcohol and drug use, stress, low blood sugar, and many others.
Although there are several medications available for reducing the frequency and preventing the spread of seizures, like all pharmaceuticals, the side effects can be less than desired. Many will cause fatigue, dizziness, headache, sleep problems, appetite loss, nausea, and vomiting; and long-term use can cause serious complications throughout the body.
How Medical Marijuana Could Help
The endocannabinoid system, discovered in 1992, works to regulate various physiological functions to achieve homeostasis, or balance within the body. Supplementing the endocannabinoid system with phytocannabinoids from the cannabis plant, like THC and CBD, produces medicinal effects in a wide variety of ailments, including controlling seizures by binding with endocannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2 throughout the brain, body, and immune system.
THC, or delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol, also shows promising results as an anti-epileptic and anti-convulsant. THC, does however, also produce the euphoric effects associated with cannabis. Whereas, CBD, or cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis, has been shown in dozens of studies (3) and hundreds of anecdotal stories to help control the seizures. Plus, CBD competes to bind with the receptors, thus preventing THC from binding, which reduces or eliminates any psychoactive effects caused by the THC. This is a potent combination for combating seizures.
Patients of Medical Cannabis
In 2013, a young girl named Charlotte Figi (4) who suffered from daily seizures due to Dravet Syndrome brought cannabis therapy to light. Charlotte’s parents watched their healthy baby girl deteriorate over the course of a few years. Suffering from nearly 300 grand mal seizures a week by the age of 5, doctors had all but given up trying to figure out how to help her. Within the first doses, Charlotte’s seizures stopped, by the time Charlotte was 6 her seizures were down to two or three per month and mostly in her sleep. She was walking and even riding her bicycle.
Scientific Studies for Medical Marijuana
A new study out of Mexico (5), published in March, showed 17% of the participants experienced 100% relief of their symptoms, while 53% reported a 75% reduction in symptoms of Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, another form of childhood epilepsy.
In another study (6), both healthy adults and epilepsy patients were treated with CBD or a placebo. While none of the participants reported any adverse effects from the cannabis-based medicine, 7 of 15 of the epilepsy patients reported improvement in their symptoms with four patients reporting being completely seizure-free.
A more recent study of children with Dravet’s was published in the New England Journal of Medicine (7) showing a 39% decrease in seizure frequency.
Medical marijuana has shown to help many people control their symptoms of epilepsy and other seizure disorders. Could medical marijuana be the solution for you or your loved one? Stop by today to speak with one of our compassionate doctors!
- Epilepsy Foundation. Epilepsy Statistics. Epilepsy.com. [Online] 2017. http://www.epilepsy.com/learn/epilepsy-statistics.
- How common are the “common” neurologic disorders? Hirtz D, et al. January 2007, Journal of Neurology.
- Project CBD. Epilepsy and Seizure Disorders. ProjectCBD.org. [Online] https://www.projectcbd.org/epilepsy-seizure-disorders.
- Young, S. Marijuana stops child’s severe seizures. CNN. 2013.
- Kegel, M. Cannabis Product Reduces Epileptic Seizures in Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, Study Shows. Epilepsy News Today. March 2017.
- Chronic administration of cannabidiol to healthy volunteers and epileptic patients. Cunha JM, Carlini EA, Pereira AE, Ramos OL, Pimentel C, Gagliardi R, Sanvito WL, Lander N, Mechoulam R. 1980, Journal of Pharmacology.
- Fox, Maggie and Dunn, Lauren. Cannabis Drug Reduces Seizures in Severe Epilepsy Cases. NBC News. 2017.