Under the Microscope

Patients with many forms of Epilepsy are seeking relief with CBD (cannabidiol). What is effective and legal?

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02/02/2023 Adult & Childhood Epilepsy: Cannabis Treatments

Imagine being an adult, just standing in line at the grocery store. Suddenly, you start to have muscle contractions all over your body. The groceries in your hands fall to the floor, as you continue to shake and twitch...

At this point, your brain is fuzzy, you don't even know what's happening or where you are. As you start to come around, you notice you're now laying on the floor. Your head is pounding, sight is still fuzzy and you hurt like never before. Oh so tired, barely able to lift your head an inch.

Chances are you just experienced a mixed bag of symptoms that falls under the heading of epilepsy. Epilepsy can be a debilitating condition. There are numerous forms of epilepsy. Researchers are trying to discover what causes them and how to effectively treat them.

What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is defined by The Mayo Clinic (March 31, 2021) as a central nervous system disorder, where for some reason the brain activity becomes abnormal. Causing seizures or periods of unusual behavior, sensations, and sometimes awareness. Anyone can develop epilepsy. It affects both males and females of all races, ethnic backgrounds, and ages.

There are two main groups of seizures according to the  Cleveland Clinic. There is a Generalized heading and a Partial heading. Within these 2 groups, it is broken down even further. The type of symptoms you have determines the type of seizure.

Some of the symptoms of a seizure are jerky movements on both sides or one side of the body. A feeling of losing time or being "out of it", losing consciousness, and being incontinent. Other symptoms affect motor, sensory pathways,  create autonomic and psychological impediments.

Childhood Epilepsy & CBD

Some of the most debilitating seizures are present in some childhood forms of epilepsy. Dravet syndrome, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, and sclerosis complex are extremely difficult to treat. Many of these children are treatment-resistant to common anti-seizure medications.

These children can develop seizures that don't stop and require immediate medical attention. Often, the development of motor skills and mental growth is delayed or compromised. They may develop a crooked gait.

Did the Government Approve CBD Use?

The very first US FDA-approved treatment, derived from marijuana, was approved in June of 2018. Greenwich Biosciences Inc. (Carlsbad, CA) produces and refines the cannabidiol (CBD) that is used to make Epidolex. Epidolex is approved to treat people over the age of 2 with Dravet syndrome, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, and sclerosis complex.

Studies concluded that Epidolex was effective in reducing drastically the number of seizures in these patients. A study of 120 children and teens with Dravet syndrome reported as much as 50% decrease in seizures. (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)

While Epidolex does have some side effects, they are considered low. Many of the side effects may even leave with continued treatment. (Epidolex package insert) Since Epidolex has been refined to exclude as much THC as possible, there are no psychoactive highs associated with this pure form of oral cannabidiol.

CBD Legal for Medical Uses?

Federal legalization hasn't happened.  Yet, the US government saw fit to allow one company the ability to research and produce this oral CBD drug. Effectively acknowledging that there IS some medical benefit to be derived from cannabis. This is an extraordinary event for cannabis. However, over 3 years later, cannabis is still languishing on the Schedule 1 classification, with no medical benefit.

The FDA expressly issued a statement, spelling out the restrictions on CBD oil for medical use. They state there's no FDA-approved CBD product on the market. Epidolex is strictly the only pharmaceutical-grade CBD treatment approved.

What Does the Future Hold?

More research is needed into cannabidiol and the other cannabinoids in cannabis to gain possible benefits. Research into the many types of epilepsy with cannabinoid treatment is slowly moving forward.

Recently, the FDA approved more general testing and research with samples that are more indicative of what is being produced currently as medical cannabis. Research facilities are being allowed to gather data about the benefits of cannabinoids and THC. We should all look forward to vetted published research expanding.

This is a step in the right direction. People need concrete resources and education to make the best choices for themselves and their loved ones. Once legalization or rescheduling of cannabis happens, opportunities will open and the reduction in suffering for many people will begin.

Written by Teresa Martin, Copywriter: Cannabis, Hemp, Medical