What Is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a medical condition commonly on the list of qualifying conditions for a medical marijuana recommendation, including in states such as Ohio, Missouri and Pennsylvania.
Epilepsy is a complex neurological condition that affects approximately 50 million people worldwide and 1.2 percent of the U.S. population. Three million adults and nearly half a million children live with some form of active epilepsy in the United States.
Epilepsy is defined by seizures or brief surges of uncontrolled electrical activity in the brain. Seizures are dangerously unpredictable, and epileptics often incur bruises, cuts, burns, broken bones, and head injuries as a result of an epileptic episode.
Although it is a lifelong condition with no cure, for many patients, the symptoms of epilepsy get better as they age. Most epilepsy patients can control their seizures through anti-epileptic medications and lead a relatively normal life. In fact, it is even possible for epilepsy to naturally go into remission in adulthood. In a child with epilepsy, it is relatively common for them to “grow out of it” as they reach puberty.
However, up to a third of epilepsy patients don’t grow out of their condition and don’t respond well to anti-epileptic medications. When these medications fail to bring seizures under control, it’s known as refractory epilepsy, or intractable epilepsy.
Cannabis for Epilepsy
Cannabis has been studied in recent years as a potential treatment for some of epilepsy’s most troubling symptoms, particularly for pediatric epilepsy patients. In 2016, a CBD-based pharmaceutical called Epidiolex was developed and approved by the FDA. Studies showed it significantly reduced seizures in people with three different, rare types of epilepsy. Up to 40 percent of people with epilepsy do not respond to traditional medication regimens, so cannabis as a treatment option remains an especially attractive alternative for epilepsy patients.
The long-term effects of chronic anti-epilepsy drug use also remains a concern for many epilepsy patients and their parents or caregivers. Most medications meant to control seizures can cause drowsiness or dizziness, induce suicidal thoughts or actions, and/or bring on or worsen depression.
CBD for Epilepsy – How It Works
While more research is needed to thoroughly understand it, CBD is thought to treat symptoms of epilepsy by desensitizing certain ion channels that cause convulsions. When the patient takes CBD, the rapidly firing motor output that they experience during a seizure temporarily slows, allowing a reprieve from convulsions. Regardless of the mechanism, CBD’s healing potential has sparked interest in research efforts across the globe, especially as current studies show CBD’s capacity to function not only as an anti-seizure treatment, but also as an antipsychotic, neuroprotective, and antidepressant remedy.
Patients with epilepsy who use medicinal marijuana reported in a recent study that cannabis can control their seizures and positively affect mood disorders. Another recent study found that the cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) appears to be helpful in treating epileptic seizures in children.
While not everyone with epilepsy should consider medical cannabis as a treatment option, some patients living with uncontrolled seizures have reported beneficial effects and reduced seizure activity when using medical cannabis, especially strains that are rich in CBD.
To learn more about using CBD for epilepsy, reach out to Duber Medical today.
Author: Gabrielle Dion Visca
Gabrielle has been writing and editing professionally for the medical and wellness industries for more than 20 years. She’s held positions with The Journal of Pediatrics, Livestrong, The Cincinnati Enquirer, and Patient Pop. She currently writes articles about medical marijuana for Duber Medical, and is the founder of the Ohio cannabis journalism non-profit, MedicateOH.