The list of conditions cannabis can treat seems to be growing longer by the day. Now, researchers are uncovering the benefits of cannabis to treat epilepsy, particularly in children.
By now, most of us have heard about the benefits of medical cannabis. From reducing the negative effects of physical conditions like chronic back pain and muscle spasms to helping combat diseases like cancer, fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis, the list of conditions cannabis can treat is growing longer by the day. Now, researchers are uncovering the benefits of cannabis to treat epilepsy, particularly in children.
Treating epilepsy with cannabis dates back to the Middle Ages
While the idea of treating epilepsy with cannabis may seem fairly new, the concept has been around since medieval times. However, the science behind it has not been widely reported and the information out there has been largely controversial, particularly among cannabis nay-sayers. This is due to the tumultuous public perception of cannabis use.
Skepticism around its benefits hasn’t stopped the pursuit of knowledge about this wonder plant, though. Several studies and trials have been carried out over the past 30 years testing cannabis as an effective treatment for epilepsy.
In 1978, nine patients with drug-resistant epilepsy took part in a trial in which four of them were given 200mg of CBD daily for three months, while the other five were given placebos. During those three months, two of the participants taking CBD had no seizures at all, and a third participant saw general improvement. This trial was part of six studies completed between 1978-2017, where the outcomes of 4 of 6 of those trials proved that taking cannabis reduced seizures in the participants.
More recently, in 2017, an Australian nationwide survey on medical cannabis use for epilepsy was carried out which included 976 responders. It showed that 15% of adults with epilepsy and 13% of parents/guardians of children with epilepsy were currently using, or had previously used, cannabis products to treat epilepsy. Of those, 90% of adults and 71% of parents reported success in reducing seizure frequency after commencing cannabis products. Only a small amount of the responders were using cannabis based on a recommendation from a doctor. Most weren’t.
Researchers are learning that THC is an equally important part of the puzzle
Now, researchers are again studying this concept, but this time, focusing on tetrahydrocannabidiol (THC) as an equally important part of the puzzle. While the clinical use of cannabis to treat epilepsy has largely been constrained by concerns about the psychoactive effects of THC, using both THC and CBD (cannabidiol) in combination has been proven to reduce seizures and improve quality of life for children suffering from drug-resistant epilepsy (DRE) due to Dravet syndrome. DRE is a lifelong disease with no known cure that affects up to 30% of children with epilepsy.
Since August of last year, researchers at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto have been studying safe-dosing both THC and CBD in tandem. The study is the first of its kind to examine the dosing and tolerability of a product containing both CBD and THC and its affect on children who suffer from drug-resistant seizures. According to the report by SickKids, “participants who reached the target treatment dose had a statistically significant reduction in motor seizures, and an increase in seizure-free days compared to those who did not reach the target dose.”
As cannabis continues to be recognized as a game-changer in the medical world, there’s little reason to doubt it will soon become a viable therapeutic option for those affected by epilepsy, either directly or indirectly.