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Cannabis Oil for Seizures: What Good Does It Do?

In mass media, seizures are often depicted as violent convulsions with rapid and uncontrollable shaking of the body. While they do manifest this way in real life, seizures have many different types and not all of them cause convulsions or symptoms that affect movement. In some patients, this condition manifests in a less noticeable way, like absence seizures or staring spells, and behavior arrest or lack of movement. 

Despite this, epilepsy or recurring seizures can greatly affect a person’s quality of life. The severity and frequency of seizures can prevent a person from safely performing everyday tasks like driving and cooking. The condition can also impair socialization, aggravate psychiatric disturbances, and limit one’s ability to work. In fact, people with epilepsy are 2 or 3 times more likely to be unemployed compared to the general population. And while epilepsy increases a person’s risk for injuries, the traditional treatments for the condition can also have its drawbacks. For example, the introduction of a new medicine may cause tiredness, dizziness, stomach upset, or blurred vision.

There’s no one-size-fits-all cure for seizures. And despite the availability of anti-epilepsy drugs (AED) today, approximately 20 to 30 percent of people with recurring seizures have drug-resistant epilepsy (DRE). This means that the epilepsy persists or remains unaffected despite the introduction of anti-epilepsy drugs (AED). However, a number of surveys, clinical trials, and recent reports show that the use of cannabis products may be an effective treatment for DRE.

Research And Studies Show That Cannabis May Be Able To Help With Epilepsy And Seizures.

A Brief Look at the History of Cannabis and Epilepsy

Cannabis and epilepsy go way back. The earliest documented case of using cannabis to treat seizures was recorded in a Sumerian text from 2900 BCE. Another such case was noted in an Arabic document from the 12th century.

In the west, cannabis made it to the medical annals in the mid-1800s when the British surgeon William O’Shaughnessy used it to treat epilepsy. The 2 most prominent neurosurgeons in England in the mid- to late-19th century, J.R. Reynolds and W. Gowers, also noted how the plant benefitted patients with epilepsy. In the US, cannabis was listed as a treatment for various diseases including neuralgia and muscle spasms in 1854. It was first regulated in the country in 1906. The follow up 1937 Marijuana Tax Act, which imposed severe restrictions on the use of cannabis, was opposed by the American Medical Association as it infringes a physician’s freedom to treat patients. Then, in 1970, the plant was classified as a Schedule I drug with high potential for abuse and no medicinal use. 

What Can Cannabis Do for Patients with DRE?

Researchers hold particular interest in cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, and how it can potentially help control seizures. This particular substance is at the center of an ongoing study being conducted by GW Pharmaceuticals for one of the company’s 99 percent CBD oil anti-epilepsy drug. The open-label study involved 124 individuals around the age of 11, all with seizures that did not respond to currently available treatments. So far, the results of the study have been positive with an average reduction of seizures by 54 percent.

In addition to providing a viable treatment option for people with DRE, the use of products bases on cannabis shows much promise when it comes to diminishing seizure frequencies and weakening the severity of epilepsy. In one case unrelated to the study that was recorded in June 2017, cannabis oil was used to treat a 12-year-old girl who was struck with a rare type of seizure. Her condition caused her to suffer hundreds of seizures in a day, so she was put in a medical coma. Within 48 hours after using cannabis oil, the seizures stopped and the girl woke up. However, it should be noted that the use of cannabis may cause the patient some unwanted side effects. Back in the GW Pharmaceuticals study, 10% of the participants experienced sleepiness, fatigue, diarrhea, or reduced appetite. Plus, the drug-to-drug interactions that happen while taking CBD-based medicines have not yet been thoroughly explored.  

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Call for Further Research On Cannabis and Seizures

Many publications and medical organizations also acknowledge that future clinical trials are needed in order to fully understand how cannabinoids function in relation to seizures. In fact, many medical organizations call for removing barriers to cannabis research, which will enable researchers to further study the substance and its medicinal effects. With further studies, researches, and clinical trials, there’s a better chance of finding answers to lingering questions about the mechanism, safety, and efficacy of using cannabinoids as seizure treatment, especially the consequences of its long- and short-term use.

A number of states now allow cannabis and cannabis-based products to be sold and distributed for medical purposes. For DRE cases where traditional treatments don’t work, it is not unreasonable for the patient to seek seizure relief in cannabis. While researchers do not look down on the legal use of the substance for treatment, they fully encourage the patients to consult with their physicians first to arrive at the best decisions for their health and well-being.