CBD, Cannabis and Epilepsy: Medical Cannabis to Treat Epilepsy and Seizures


Over the years, medical marijuana has generated a seemingly never-ending debate and a raising interest from the public due to its therapeutic properties. The federal government allows hemp-derived CBD, and 33 states allow medical marijuana as many others work on the legalization issue.

One of the chronic conditions for which medical marijuana use is often allowed is epileptic seizures, a condition that affects the lives of millions of people around the world. But is Marijuana effective in helping solve this depilating disorder? Read on to understand the relationship between medical cannabis and hemp CBD oil in relieving epileptic seizures.

What is a Seizure?

A seizure occurs when the electric activity of the brain becomes dysregulated, making all neurons to fire at the same time repeatedly. This interrupts the function of the brain area where the rhythmic, synchronized firing happens.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines epilepsy as a brain disorder that causes seizures. Epilepsy can also be described as a neurological condition associated with recurrent seizures that result from a sudden jolt of electric activity in the brain, thus disrupting the messaging between brain cells.

Epilepsy affects people in different ways since there are distinct causes and kinds of seizures. Seizures can be caused by:

•    Strokes

•    Head and traumatic brain injuries

•    Encephalitis

•    Meningitis

However, most seizures arise for no known reason.

Types of Epilepsy-Caused Seizures

Generally, seizures are categorized into two: generalized and partial seizures. Generalized seizures lead to Tonic-Clonic Movements (Rhythmic Limb Movements) and loss of consciousness, and occur when the rhythmic neuronal firing involves the whole brain. Partial seizures occur when electric impulses originate in a focused or specific brain part, which could lead to loss of consciousness and a problematic dysfunction.

Common epilepsy medications are referred to as Anti-Epileptic Drugs or AEDs. These include Levetiracetam, Topiramate, Gabapentin, Phenytoin, and Carbamazepine, among others.

Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol (CBD) for Treating Seizures

Marijuana typically refers to the leaves of female cannabis plants flowers. Medical cannabis is made of chemicals in the marijuana plant or whole plant marijuana for curative purposes. The two key ingredients in cannabis are:

•    Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): This is the compound responsible for psychoactive effects that cause users to experience “high” feeling

•    Cannabidiol (CBD): CBD has proven to have significant therapeutic effects on the body. This non-psychoactive compound has been effectively used in reducing seizures in persons with epilepsy.

While research on CBD has been hard to do due to unfavorable federal regulations and limited Cannabidiol access, evidence from anecdotal reports, laboratory studies, and clinical studies suggest that CBD is effective in helping control seizures.

Findings on CBD oil from the University of Alabama at Birmingham give evidence of noteworthy improvements in the regularity of seizures and other patient efficacy measures with medication-resistant epilepsy. These results were published in the Epilepsy and Behavior journal, and show that using CBD oil reduces events and severity of seizures, and decreases overall frequency.

The study focused on 132 patients – 60 adults and 72 children – with intractable epilepsy that didn’t improve upon traditional ways of treatment. This study started in 2015 after an Alabama legislature’s act authorized studies of CBD by the Children’s of Alabama and UAB Epilepsy Center.

This study examined data from the 132 epileptic persons at baseline, with visits scheduled at 12 weeks, 24, and 48 weeks. The frequency of seizure reduced to 52 seizures from an average of 144 seizures every 2 weeks at baseline by the 12th week of the study. The decrease was stable throughout the 48 weeks of the study. There was a close to two-thirds reduction in the number of seizures experienced by most patients across the whole population. Others experienced even more decrease in seizure recurrence rate.

The study’s researchers also rated the study participants based on AEP score (Adverse Events Profile). The score for all partakers reduced to 33.2 at the 12-week visit from 40.8 at the start of the CBD therapy. Researchers also need a Chalfont Seizure Severity Scale so as to evaluate the overall seizure severity. Scores fell to 39.2 from 80.7 within 12 weeks at baseline. The scores for both measurements stayed stable at the 48th week.

On the report, the director of UAB Epilepsy Center Jerzy Szaflarski, M.D., Ph.D., said that on the CSS scale, an improvement of 10 points and higher is clinically substantial. Improvements were noted between baseline and the twelve-week visits within 30-40-point range for all groups, and as high as 50% to 60% enhancement, meaning that not only are the results statistically important but also are they clinically substantial for the whole group.

Researchers also noted parallel reductions in seizure frequency and severity, meaning that for most patients, the use of Cannabidiol oil resulted in lesser intense seizures.

The CBD-based oil used in this study is Epidiolex, a pharmaceutical-grade product made by Greenwich Biosciences. This purified oil contains only trace THC amounts and is hence not psychoactive.

Former randomized controlled and observational studies have proven the tolerability and safety of Epidiolex, and hence, UAB’s focus was analyzing AEP data, that highlighted a major reduction in the total side effects on patients.

Outstandingly, AEP scores were stable throughout the period of study, even with further CBD dosing increases and declines in other seizure medications. Only two adult and two pediatric study participants withdrew because of adverse events.

 The study’s results are predominantly impressive because, other than only enrolling people with a particular diagnosis, patients of all ages and with treatment-resistance epilepsy participated. This is an indication that CBD oil could be an effective solution for a wide range of epileptic conditions.

 On June 25, 2018, the FDA approved Epidiolex for seizures linked to Lennox-Grastaut and Dravet Syndromes, which are rare and severe epilepsy forms. This marked the first FDA approval of a CBD drug. Although this approval creates a way for people with such erratic conditions to get CBD in days to come, it also gives epileptic patients a well-tolerated and an extra efficacious seizure treatment option.







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