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Medical Marijuana and Epilepsy

What Is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a disorder of the central nervous system characterized by loss of consciousness and convulsions. Medical marijuana for epilepsy has shown promise as a safe, effective treatment that doesn’t produce the often-severe side effects of traditional medications.

Epilepsy is a nervous system disorder that produces intense, abnormal electrical activity in the brain, which can cause seizures. Approximately 2 million Americans are afflicted with epilepsy. This disorder can be caused by brain damage, a tumor, or an infection, but in most cases, the cause is unknown.

Epileptic seizures are often controlled through drug therapy drugs such as anticonvulsants. In general, medications can control seizures in about 70% of patients — but that leaves 30% of epileptic patients without relief. Furthermore, traditional epileptic medications come with side effects such as sedation, slurring of speech, unsteadiness, double vision, weight gain, hyperactivity (in children), sleep disturbances, irritability, gum dysplasia, hirsutism, and changes in mood.

Medical Marijuana and Epilepsy

Many patients suffering from epilepsy and other seizure disorders have found great relief from medical marijuana, either taken on its own or in conjunction with other epilepsy medications. Some epileptics who cannot tolerate other anti-seizure medications have been able to use marijuana to successfully control their seizures.

Additionally, medical marijuana is very effective in controlling epileptic seizures without the side effects found in traditional medicines used to treat epilepsy. The side effects associated with cannabis are typically mild and are classified as "low risk," with euphoric mood changes among the most frequent side effects.

The subject of using medical marijuana for seizures has been of interest to researchers for some time. However, recent research shows that the use of the drug to treat epilepsy symptoms has promise. For example, “Scientific American” reported on a study involving the use of a cannabis-based drug known as Epidiolex, which is an extract containing 99 percent cannabidiol, or CBD. This is a chemical found in marijuana that does not produce psychoactive effects. This form of treatment was provided to patients in addition to the existing medications they were using, and all of the patients were aware of what they were taking.

According to the publication, the addition of CBD helped reduce seizures in nearly 37 percent of patients, and 2 percent of patients reported that they were free of seizures entirely. Although nearly 80 percent of patients participating in the study reported effects such as fatigue, diarrhea and sleepiness, only 3 percent of them removed themselves due to these events.

Research on Medical Marijuana for Epilepsy

Substantial research into the potential benefits of medical marijuana for epilepsy has largely been stymied in the U.S. due to roadblocks erected by the federal government. But “Time” magazine recently reported on a potentially groundbreaking clinical trial that could go a long way toward backing the claims of marijuana advocates with unassailable science.

The magazine reported that University of Colorado researchers were involved in studying the genetic makeup of people suffering from a form of epilepsy known as Dravet Syndrome. The researchers were specifically looking for patients who had used Charlotte’s Web, a strain of weed known to have particularly substantial benefits for those suffering from epilepsy.

The purpose of the study was to determine if there are genetic reasons why some patients see positive results from the strain and others see no benefit. One group participating in the study would have seen their seizure activity reduced at least by half after using Charlotte’s Web, while the others would either have seen minimal or no effects.

The Charlotte’s Web strain is high in CBD and low in THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis. The main method of ingestion of the strain is through oil. Several children have been treated in this manner, including one Charlotte Figi, from which the strain takes its name. She was the first epilepsy patient, according to the magazine, who was successfully treated using Charlotte’s Web.

There is a great deal of anecdotal evidence that shows Charlotte’s Web can be an extremely effective treatment, but federal laws have made it exceedingly difficult to prove it scientifically. But this trial, the magazine reports, can be an important first step toward building a scientific argument.

The study is ongoing, and it is unclear when the results will be known. However, the principal investigator involved in the study said it could eventually allow children suffering from Dravet Syndrome to one day be screened so that parents will know whether or not they would benefit from the use of Charlotte’s Web.

Most medical marijuana states allow the use of medical marijuana for epilepsy and/or seizures. If you or a loved one is looking to find relief from epilepsy or any other seizure disorder, can help. We can connect you with hundreds of quality marijuana doctors across the country in all legal marijuana states and ensure you are in compliance with your state laws. Book an appointment today and let us help improve your quality of life!



This information is not provided by medical professionals and is intended only to complement, and not to replace or contradict, any health or medical advice or information provided by healthcare professionals.  If you have any questions, please contact your doctor or other healthcare professional.


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