Epilepsy can be a difficult condition to manage. While leaps and bounds have been made toward treating the condition, some types of epilepsy disorders continue to puzzle scientists. Certain treatment-resistant forms of epilepsy, such as Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndromes, can be particularly debilitating to those affected and their families. Recent developments in research, however, are pointing towards a potential treatment option.
Epilepsy is a condition characterized by recurring seizures, usually of varying intensities, caused by disturbances in specific regions of the brain. Since seizures and seizure disorders have a wide range of characteristics depending on the person who is afflicted by them, this causes certain forms of the condition to be difficult to treat.
But just as seizures are unique depending on the person, everyone’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) is unique as well. This system consists of receptors that are present throughout the body, as well as the endocannabinoids it produces. Although the ECS has not yet been fully understood, it appears to be activated when you experience a central nervous system injury (for example, from a seizure) by helping to reduce the damage.
CBD (cannabidiol) was a natural choice for clinical trials on patients with epilepsy due to its lack of intoxicating effects. Along with THC, CBD is one of the most prolific cannabinoids found in cannabis.
A recent study found that “cannabidiol is [effective] for the treatment of patients with drop seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and is generally well tolerated.” Another study found that “among patients with the Dravet syndrome, cannabidiol resulted in a greater reduction in convulsive-seizure frequency than placebo.” Finally, the findings of a third study support prior animal studies and reports “showing that CBD may be a promising treatment for TRE [treatment-resistant epilepsy] and is generally well-tolerated in doses up to 25mg/kg/day.”
Both Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndrome are complex childhood epilepsy disorders associated with drug-resistant seizures and high mortality rates.
Epidiolex is the first FDA-approved drug which contains CBD and has been approved in the treatment of Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndromes. This has created much-needed opportunities for the continued study of the efficacy of pure, highly concentrated, and lab-tested CBD, particularly as a potential treatment for epilepsy disorders which have been found to be resistant to other medications.
As this study mentions, however, “although […CBD has] already demonstrated significant improvement in seizure frequency and severity with a relatively well-tolerated side effect profile for this compound, continued monitoring of Epidiolex is needed to further assess the long-term safety and efficacy, particularly with regard to immune, cognitive, hormonal, and reproductive function.” While CBD in the form of Epidiolex has been found to be effective in the treatment of certain types of seizures, further studies are needed in order to better understand how it works as well as any possible side effects and/or interactions with other drugs.
While these initial findings seem promising, it is important to note that more research is required to determine the efficacy of cannabis in treating epilepsy. The possible applications of cannabis in this regard are numerous – it’s even currently being studied to treat dogs and other animals afflicted with epilepsy!
If you or someone you know is interested in exploring medical cannabis as a potential treatment for epilepsy, please consult your healthcare practitioner for guidance. They are the best resource to provide oversight of your treatment regimen.