How medical CBD oil can treat Epilepsy

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Those who have severe epilepsy experience difficulty in finding a medication that works. Medical cannabis, specifically, CBD oil, has emerged as an effective treatment for epilepsy disorders.  

Epilepsy patients face difficulty finding effective treatment. Medical cannabis, specifically CBD is an effective treatment for seizures.

CBD oil has been the subject of increasing focus in medical research and study. While formal clinical studies on CBD are limited, the number of personal anecdotes from people suffering from cancer pain, anxiety and epilepsy discovering relief through CBD are both compelling and plentiful.

Media news outlets such as CNN and BBC have taken notice of these compelling human stories and given them a platform to further CBD awareness. Take Charlotte Figi, for example. At only three months old, Charlotte was suffering from several catastrophic grand mal seizures a week – a result of Dravet Syndrome. This rare form of epilepsy is particularly resistant to traditional pharmaceutical drugs. After exhausting their options, Charlotte’s parents discovered that CBD oil was the only medicine that worked for their daughter. The results were near-miraculous. Charlotte’s personal story was just one of the many featured on major news platforms.

CBD oil is fast becoming popular as the primary alternative for people who want to experience its medical benefits without the “high” of cannabis. CBD is different from tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the active ingredient in cannabis and the one responsible for its euphoria-inducing effects. CBD oil has become the standard go-to for medical treatment because of the absence of smell and stigma associated with the smoking of cannabis. It can also be available as a concentrated product if a large dose is needed. As an oil formulation, it can easily be administered, and the drops can easily be counted to keep track of the doses required.

What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a common neurologic disorder – it is the fourth common neurological disorder. The World Health Organization ranked epilepsy as the second most burdensome neurologic disorder worldwide in terms of disability-adjusted life years.

It affects people of all ages, and it is characterized by unpredictable seizures. It is a spectrum condition with a wide range of seizure types. A person is diagnosed with epilepsy if they have two unprovoked seizures (or one provoked seizure with the likelihood of more) that were not caused by some known and reversible medical conditions like alcohol withdrawal or extremely low blood sugar.

Epilepsy is hard to treat, with two-thirds of the patients achieving success in antiepileptic therapy, and the other third still struggles with the symptoms and is resistant to pharmaceutical medications. This prompts them to seek alternative and new treatments.

Why CBD Oil?

Although the exact antiepileptic mechanism of CBD is currently not known, CBD oil is now being touted as the treatment for epilepsy when everything else has failed. Although several new antiepileptic medicines have been developed, the prognosis of epilepsy remains unchanged. One-third of patients continue to have drug-resistant seizures. Only about two-thirds of epilepsy patients will respond to the first or second medicine they’d been prescribed. Once an epilepsy patient has taken two different medicines without improvements, the odds that a third medication will work is only around 1 percent. This leaves other options – CBD oils.

Many patients have been using CBD oils to help eliminate or reduce their symptoms. It is not a miracle cure – it doesn’t cure epilepsy, but instead reduces the frequency of seizures. Although it is not the cure, patients continue to use it because it allows them to ease off other antiepileptic drugs that have serious side effects, including anemia, low platelet levels, liver failure, allergic reactions and suicidal tendencies.

Treatment of Epilepsy with CBD Oil

Recently, CBD oil has been found to significantly reduce the number of dangerous seizures in patients with epilepsy in various clinical studies. Reports of antiseizure effects of cannabis products go back to ancient Mesopotamia. Still, it is only in the last ten years that results of patient surveys and exploratory studies around cannabis started to emerge. In the previous ten years, there has been increasing interest in the use of CBD-enriched products, such as CBD oils, for the treatment of epilepsy.

Several studies in the past decade have been conducted to explore the medicinal benefits of CBD oils in the treatment of epilepsy. Epidiolex, which is an oil-based CBD extract, has been recently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for treatment of rare, severe epilepsy – Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. It has been shown to reduce the number of seizures in people taking the drug.

Study of CBD Treating Dravet & Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome

In the December 2015 study by Devinsky et al., patients with Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome were orally administered a purified 98% CBD oil extract (Epidiolex). Researchers discovered that the number of monthly seizures was reduced by 36.5%.

Although there were also side effects, the benefits are significant enough that the patients continued with the drug. In May 2017, Devinsky et al. conducted another study with 120 patients with Dravet syndrome who were randomly assigned to receive either a purified CBD oral solution or placebo, in addition to their standard antiepileptic treatment.  The percentage of patients who became seizure-free was 5% with CBD and 0% with placebo.

Another recent study, in March 2019 by Thiele et al., investigated the add-on effect of a purified CBD for drop-seizures in 171 patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome who are treatment-resistant. This study was conducted at 24 clinical sites in the United States, the Netherlands, and Poland. This study reported a reduction in a monthly drop seizure of 43.9%, further supporting the idea that CBD has a beneficial effect in epilepsy.

These clinical studies put the spotlight on CBD oils, as there is now a growing body of clinical evidence to support its use for severe epileptic disorders.

Future of CBD Oil in Epilepsy Treatment

The results of the recent clinical trials are very reassuring to people with epilepsy, especially those with Dravet and Lennox-Gaustat syndromes. Now that CBD is an approved treatment of those conditions, epileptic patients now have a renewed hope that their seizures can be better controlled. More research is needed to assess the long-term safety and efficacy of CBD oils, and fortunately, there is now more ongoing research to answer these questions.

With these detailed studies, it’s clear that CBD oil is a compelling solution to treating epilepsy.

 

Sources:

Franco, V., & Perucca, E. (2019). Pharmacological and Therapeutic Properties of Cannabidiol for Epilepsy. Drugs. doi:10.1007/s40265-019-01171-4

Samanta, D. (2019). Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Efficacy and Safety in Epilepsy. Pediatric Neurology. doi:10.1016/j.pediatrneurol.2019.03.014

Sanmartin, P. E., & Detyniecki, K. (2018). Cannabidiol for Epilepsy: New Hope on the Horizon? Clinical Therapeutics. doi:10.1016/j.clinthera.2018.07.020