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Cannabis and epilepsy - is it effective?

Cannabis has been demonised in the past, especially in conservative sectors of society who claimed that the substance made people violent or mad, but it has also been endorsed as the cure-all substance for any kind of ailment by others. And as with most extreme views, neither the former nor the latter is true. However, it is true that there are many medicinal applications for different cannabis derivatives, so today we will delve into the possible uses of cannabis to treat epilepsy.

What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterised by recurrent seizures, which can range from mild to severe and can have a significant impact on an individual's quality of life. Despite the availability of a variety of anti-epileptic drugs, many patients continue to experience seizures, which can lead to significant disabilities and reduced life expectancy.

Is cannabis effective in treating epilepsy?

Cannabis is the name of the plant, and the plant itself has hundreds of compounds of different types, including terpenes and cannabinoids, so it would not be accurate to say that cannabis as a whole can be used to treat epilepsy. But one of those cannabinoids might be able to do so. We are referring to the cannabinoid CBD (Cannabidiol), which is one of the non-psychoactive chemicals present in the plant. This means that unlike THC (the cannabinoid responsible for the "high" sensation associated with cannabis use), CBD does not affect cognitive abilities or the ability to work or do most daily activities while remaining in full control of mental faculties.

The Epilepsy Foundation has found that half of the patients treated with CBD have reduced their seizure rate by more than 50%. This is a more than promising result, especially since many patients who respond well to CBD were patients who did not respond to other traditional anti-epileptic drugs or who suffered from the most severe types of epilepsy, such as Dravet syndrome or Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.

How effective is CBD in treating epilepsy?

The procedure for testing the efficacy of CBD in treating epilepsy was to treat large groups of patients, giving placebos to some and CBD to others. They conducted multiple tests with different doses of CBD: with 20mg of the substance per kilogram of patient weight they saw a more than 50% reduction in seizures; then they repeated the experiment with a lower dose of 10mg per kilogram of patient weight and saw a 30-40% reduction in seizures. When the calculations add up and the ratios appear to be consistent at different doses, the scientists claim that the substance is truly effective.

Other cannabinoids

In addition to CBD, there are other cannabinoids that may have anticonvulsant properties. For example, cannabidivarin (CBDV) has been shown to have anticonvulsant effects in animal models of epilepsy. However, more research is needed to determine the optimal ratios of different cannabinoids for treatment. Given time, scientists may find more information and discover better ways to use compounds from the cannabis plant to treat epilepsy or other conditions.

It is important to note that not all forms of cannabis are equally effective in treating epilepsy. In fact, THC may increase seizure frequency in some individuals. This is why it is key to use cannabis strains that are high in CBD and low in THC when treating epilepsy, and also to do so with the advice and supervision of qualified health professionals.

Where to get CBD?

When it comes to medicinal use of CBD, it is always best to first consult with your doctor and find a product approved by a health organisation and properly labelled with accurate information and CBD percentage. That said, here in Barcelona we have government-approved institutions and providers that could advise on the use of cannabis products, such as cannabis associations and weed clubs. At least then you can know that you are getting good quality products, so if you are looking for a particular form of CBD, such as oil or edibles, you can check the menu of your cannabis club or ask the staff for more advice on cannabis products.

Conclusion

We have determined that CBD can be effective in treating epilepsy or seizures, but it is important to clarify that it is by no means a magic cure and will be more effective in some patients than others. It is worth mentioning that its efficacy is comparable to other medications that were being used before, and that makes CBD another solid option for patients who might not respond well to traditional medication. Let us always remember that when it comes to treating such delicate conditions as epilepsy, we must do so under the supervision of a health professional.



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