How cannabis treats epilepsy

Cannabidiol proves effective in treating some types of seizures

by Dessy Pavlova · February 16, 2023

How cannabis treats epilepsy

Cannabidiol proves effective in treating some types of seizures

There is already a significant amount of anecdotal evidence that cannabis use can be effective in treating certain types of seizures. Add to this the growing scientific evidence that supports these anecdotal claims and it becomes clear that more studies are needed to determine the specific relationship between cannabinoids and other seizures, so that new forms of treatment are available sooner. Prohibition hinders these studies, and can delay the discovery and development of drugs to treat a variety of other diseases as well.

Data suggests CBD helps treat severe forms epilepsy

The first cannabis-based anti-seizure drug approved by the FDA was Epidiolex, a cannabidiol (CBD)-based oral solution that saw promising results in lab studies and small clinical trials. Epidiolex helps treat several severe forms of epilepsy, including Dravet’s syndrome, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, and tuberous sclerosis complex. Studies also suggest that CBD may increase the efficacy of anti-epileptic medications.

Dravet’s syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut can profoundly impact those afflicted. In both syndromes, seizures begin in early childhood and can cause developmental issues like poor motor skills. Cannibidiol can greatly improve the quality of life for these patients, whose seizures are otherwise difficult to control with already established therapies. Patients are often resistant to other anti-epileptic medications because of their adverse side effects.

A more recent study conducted in 2021 by Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers in collaboration with other institutions found that patients experienced a decrease in side effects from anti-seizure medication when using CBD, and reported a better quality of life.

It is not yet entirely clear how CBD is able to regulate seizures, but scientists know that it is a result of its interacting with specific molecular targets that modulate seizures and epilepsy. Roughly explained, these targets, or channels, cause “neuronal excitability”, which leads to seizure episodes. By some mechanism, CBD seems to either indirectly inhibit these channels from activating, or nullify to a certain degree the effect of their activation.

Why clinical trials matter

The fact that well-controlled clinical studies were conducted without hindrance from government restrictions on cannabis is important. Whether it be the opinion that the data is not yet sufficient, or simply the effect of long-held stigmas against cannabis use, medical professionals still resist prescribing cannabis-based drugs. Rigorous clinical studies that determine reliable links between cannabis and health effects can give doctors the confidence that the cannabis-derived medications they prescribe will have predictable potency and results. This highlights the need for similar, larger, and more frequent studies in other areas of cannabis medicine. Prohibition forces researchers to significantly limit their studies, potentially prohibiting or delaying the discovery of new vital, cannabis-based therapies as well.

It is important to remember that while there is a growing body of scientific and anecdotal evidence to suggest cannabis can be an effective treatment for controlling some forms of seizures, there is still no consensus in the medical community for its use. You must talk to your doctor before making any changes to your medication regime.