Cannabis has been demonized in the past, particularly around conservative sectors of society that claimed the substance made people violent or drove them insane, but it has also been endorsed as the cure-all substance for any kind of ailment by others. And as it happens with most extreme opinions, neither the first one or the latter are true. However it is true that there are many medicinal applications for the different cannabis derivatives, so today we are going to 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 range of antiepileptic drugs, many patients with epilepsy continue to experience seizures, which can lead to significant disability and reduced life expectancy.
Is Cannabis effective to treat epilepsy?
Cannabis is the name of the plant, and the plant itself has hundreds of compounds of different types, among those the terpenes and cannabinoids, so it wouldn't be accurate to say that cannabis in its whole can be used to treat epilepsy. But one of those cannabinoids might be able to. We are referring to the cannabinoid CBD (Cannabidiol), which is one of the non-psychoactive chemicals in the plant. This means that contrary to THC (the cannabinoid responsible for the "high" sensation associated with the consumption of cannabis) CBD won't affect your cognitive capacities or your ability to work or do most of your daily activities while being in full control of your mental faculties.
The epilepsy foundation has found that half of the patients treated with CBD had their seizure rate reduced by over 50%. This is a more than promising result, especially because many patients that responded well to CBD were patients that weren't responding to other antiepileptic traditional medicine, or were patients of the most severe types of epilepsy like Dravet syndrome or Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
How efficient is CBD to treat epilepsy?
The procedure to test the efficacy of CBD to treat epilepsy was to treat large groups of patients, giving placebos to some and CBD to others. They ran multiple tests with different dosages of CBD: with 20mg of the substance per kilogram of weight of the patient they saw over 50% reduction of seizures; then the experiment was repeated with a lower dose of 10mg per kilogram of the patient they saw around 30-40% reduction in seizures. When the math checks out and the ratios seem to be consistent throughout different dosages, scientists assure we can speak of a true efficacy of the substance.
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 the treatment of epilepsy. Given its time it is possible that scientists find more information and discover better ways to use compounds of the cannabis plant to treat epilepsy or other conditions.
It's important to note that not all forms of cannabis are equally effective in treating epilepsy. In fact, THC could actually increase the frequency of seizures in some individuals. This is why it's key to use strains of cannabis that are high in CBD and low in THC when treating epilepsy, and also do it with the advice and supervision of qualified healthcare professionals.
Where to get CBD?
When it comes to a medicinal use of CBD it is always best to consult your doctor first and find a product that is approved by a health organization and properly labeled with the precise information and percentage of CBD. Having said that, here in Barcelona we have government approved institutions and providers that could advise on the use of cannabis products, such as dispensaries and weed clubs. At least that way you will know that you are getting good quality products, so if you are looking for any particular form of CBD such as oil or edibles, check the menu of your cannabis club and don't hesitate to ask the personnel for further advice on cannabis products.
We have determined that CBD can be efficient to treat epilepsy or convulsions, but it is important to clarify that it is by no means a magic cure and it will be more effective on some patients than others. It is worth mentioning that its efficacy is comparable to that of the other medications that were being used before, and that makes CBD another solid option for patients that might not respond well to traditional medication. Always remember that when it comes to treating conditions as delicate as epilepsy you should do it under the supervision of a healthcare professional.