The medical industry is forming a stronger and stronger argument everyday for the healing effects of cannabis, especially for sufferers of epilepsy. As the scientific evidence grows, so too does the number of successful cases. Is it possible that cannabis is the best medicine for epilepsy? Keep reading this article to learn about the ways cannabis is effective at treating seizures.
More recently, the medical marijuana industry has been glorifying cannabis as the possible cure for epilepsy. It’s as if we almost can’t keep up with the amount of success stories popping up in the media labeling cannabis as the miracle cure.
Take for example the strain “Charlotte’s Web”. This strain was named after a young girl named Charlotte who was diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome, a rare kind of epilepsy that can cause severe and frequent seizures. She was having 300 grand mal seizures a week. After her parents searched for a last resort in cannabis, Charlotte became the inspiration for the high CBD strain, Charlotte’s web. She basically pioneered the road for cannabis as a treatment for children with epilepsy.
There is both scientific and circumstantial evidence that cannabis is helping people dramatically decrease the number of seizures they experience, or even eradicating them altogether.
The market is overflowing with cannabis based pharmaceutical medicine, specifically targeted towards those suffering from epilepsy. The results we are seeing in patients experiencing seizures are extremely encouraging, and the momentum is snowballing in this particular section of the medical marijuana world.
The truth is that cannabis is also proposing a safer way to treat epilepsy than pharmacy drugs, and this is attracting the attention of the people.
Understanding epilepsy, seizures and cannabis
We have known that cannabis is an effective treatment for epilepsy since before we even knew that epilepsy was a medical condition. In ancient cultures and societies in Africa, Greece and China, it was well known that marijuana decreased seizures, if it didn’t cure them completely.
But somewhere along the line we lost touch with this healing property of cannabis. As we learn more about the condition of epilepsy and the medical benefits of cannabis, we are just beginning to join the dots again.
Adults and children alike can be affected by epilepsy (although it’s usually more severe in children), and different patients are affected to a different severity. The most severe epilepsy sufferers can experience numerous seizures in a single day. This condition can be extremely debilitating, and pharmaceutical medication doesn’t always bring about the desired result.
A seizure is usually characterized by involuntary convulsions, and they can last anywhere between a few seconds and many minutes. They are not always this severe, with some people experiencing seizures as temporary loss of consciousness, muscle stiffness and rigidity, repetitive jerking actions and the least severe of them all, loss in muscle tone.
Until now we don’t know the exact and root cause of epilepsy, but we understand that a large part of it is neurological.
Epileptic and non-epileptic seizures
It is important to note here that people can experience seizures that are not related to epilepsy (“non-epileptic seizures”) as well. There is nothing to say that cannabis will not be beneficial to these patients either, as so far, our observations show that cannabis is effective at reducing seizures in general.
There are many different things that can cause seizures. Some people experience seizures as a result of withdrawal from drugs or alcohol, they can be triggered by fever and stress, and even those that have suffered head injuries can be subject to seizures. The point is that cannabis could potentially be a solution for all of these kinds of seizures. As far as we know, seizures are largely neurological, and we are aware of the neuroprotective effects of cannabis.
The research and the evidence
As far as our research has taken us, we are not yet completely sure about how exactly cannabis works to cure and reduce seizures. However, there are so many success stories, we can hardly ignore the evidence. Scientists have been testing the effects of cannabis (both THC and CBD) in the treatment of epilepsy. Over and over again, the results show a dramatic decrease in seizures with very few side effects.
One of the biggest to ever be released on the efficacy and safety of cannabis for epilepsy patients was in 2014 by a British pharmaceutical company called GW Pharmaceuticals. Their study was particularly focused on a pharmaceutical derived from cannabis that they themselves produced.
The drug that they studied is called Epidiolex and is a purified form of the cannabinoid CBD. The results were astounding and kick-started one of the biggest movements in the marijuana industry.
After receiving treatment, 15% of patients became completely seizure free. A total of 27 adults were tested in total, and of them 9 suffered from a special kind of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome. Of these 9, 3 became completely seizure free. About 50% of the entire group tested experienced an average reduction in seizure frequency. The patients that were being tested were those specifically dealing with epilepsy that was highly resistant to treatment.
Since the release of this drug (which can be extremely hard to get because of legal status around the world), many people have reported enormous success. Although studies were being undertaken long before the release of Epidiolex, the study of this pharmaceutical drug gave some exposure to medical cannabis as a treatment for epilepsy.
This exposure probably led to less skepticism in the community, and more people began using CBD oil and other forms of marijuana to treat themselves or family members. And since then, the number of success stories has continued to grow.
One American family’s attempt to cure their son suffering from severe epilepsy led them to London to treat their son with Epidiolex. The Volgestein’s could not get access to this drug in the USA because the derivative still hadn’t been approved by the FDA. Sam Volgenstein was sometimes having more than 100 seizures a day, having between 10 and 20 per hour.
Although he wasn’t suffering from the most severe kind (Grand Mal, jerking and spasming), he would become completely absent, temporarily losing consciousness, and becoming vacant. This is debilitating for a child who is trying to socialize or learn in school. The seizures were so frequent, it was hard managing any task.
After trying many different medications, Sam’s parents could only control his seizures under huge doses of corticosteroids. These drugs can be useful in the short term, but for long-term use can be extremely damaging to the body. In a desperate attempt to treat their son’s condition, the Volgestein parents opted for Epidiolex.
Their success is nothing short of inspirational. Sam’s seizures reduced so quickly – in a matter of 24 hours they had already dramatically decreased, and two days later Sam was actually able to participate in regular activities for a child, like attending the carnival. There was no arguing with their success story.
CBD vs. THC in treating epilepsy
As a result of all of recent research, parents around the world are beginning to administer CBD oil to children for how well it treats seizures with little to no side effects. On the other hand, THC has psychoactive properties which make it less than desirable to give to a child, as the “stoned” effect is a kind of unwanted side effect.
One of most important reasons that CBD is chosen as the cannabinoid treatment for epilepsy is because it is not psychoactive, making it safe to give to children.
There is also growing support for the medical benefits of CBD across the board, with less of an emphasis on THC because of its psychoactive qualities. Recent studies also show that in the case of THC, it can have both convulsant and anti-convulsant properties, depending on how much is administered and what kind of epilepsy was being treated with it. For this reason, THC is more conflicting and not necessarily the safer option when it comes to treating epilepsy.
Why is cannabis better than pharmaceuticals?
Although some conventional pharmaceutical medication has been successful for some epilepsy patients, for many patients it comes with a plethora of side effects. Some of these drugs can successfully treat seizures in the short term, but the physical and emotional side effects associated with long-term use are making people search for alternative medicines.
There is an entire group of epilepsy patients (around 30%) for whom conventional medication doesn’t work at all. For these people, CBD products are more than an alternative – they are the only effective solution at all.
The drugs in this class are usually anticonvulsants and antispasmodics such as valproic acid and clonazepam. Some users of these pharmaceuticals report nausea, headaches, weight gain, sleep disturbances, sedation and even liver failure (I mean, look at that huge “Important Warning” on website describing valproic acid). Sometimes the side effects of these chemicals can be even more debilitating than the disease itself.
For this reason, cannabis is a safer option than pharmaceutical drugs. Overall, the most common side effects of CBD are diarrhea directly after use, fatigue directly after use and changes in appetite directly after use. In the bigger scheme of things, these are not the worst side effects, and there are virtually no long-term side effects from the treatment either.