CBD Weekly - CBD and Epilepsy
Our CBD Weekly series explains how cannabis is used to treat a range of medical conditions. Recent installments have covered Arthritis and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This time, we take a closer look at CBD and epilepsy.
As always, we kick off by reminding ourselves just what it is we’re dealing with...
What is Epilepsy?
Ask the average guy or girl on the street if they know what epilepsy is and they’ll say “Sure, that’s the one with the seizures, right? Some kid in my school had it.” And while it’s true that seizures are the hallmark of the disorder, it’s what takes place inside a sufferer’s brain that really defines the condition.
The dictionary has epilepsy listed as ‘a neurological disorder marked by sudden recurrent episodes of sensory disturbance, loss of consciousness, or convulsions, associated with abnormal electrical activity in the brain.’
This abnormal activity manifests itself in unprovoked, recurrent seizures that jeopardise a sufferers safety, independence, relationships and confidence. In short, it’s an extremely uncomfortable and debilitating condition, affecting more than 3 million Americans, with 150,000 new cases being diagnosed each year. What’s more, a third of sufferers live with the condition knowing that no treatment works for them.
The majority of cases are prescribed anticonvulsant drugs, which are not usually covered by health insurance and often ineffective. So how does cannabis provide an alternative?
How can Cannabis treat Epilepsy?
Of course, when we speak about how “cannabis” can help to treat epilepsy, what we really mean is CBD.
CBD is one of the many cannabinoids present in marijuana; the second most prevalent behind THC. And while THC is extremely psychoactive, causing the “high” sensation associated with cannabis use, CBD does the exact opposite; having no psychoactive effect of its own and actually working to alleviate psychoactive activity.
This unique feature makes CBD highly attractive to neurological research, as scientists are able to test the compound’s medical advantages without the fear of psychological side-effects. In the case of epilepsy, a disorder caused by highly-sensitive electrical activity in the brain, this type of medication will always be imperative to ensure patients’ safety. So, just what is it that CBD does to us?
CBD affects us by targeting the receptors our body already use to communicate with the brain. We naturally produce what are known as endocannabinoids: chemical compounds which act as messengers, flooding specific areas of the brain to produce a range of reactions. They are the reason we feel hunger, pain, fear, thirst, happiness, anxiety and all those other emotions Pixar did a movie about.
CBD, alongside THC and the other cannabinoids, enter the body when we consume cannabis and target the same receptors, perfectly mirroring our pre-existing endocannabinoids. This added influx of chemicals causes certain parts of the brain to go into overdrive, which is why we feel sudden bouts of hunger, euphoria or relaxation when we consume cannabis.
In 2015, doctors set out to discover if cannabis could be used as an effective treatment for epilepsy. However, given that a high number of sufferers are children - and that all sufferers are highly-sensitive to neurological shifts - THC was absolutely out of the question. As was smoking, for obvious reasons. But researchers came up with a way to circumvent both issues.
A 99% CBD oil extract was administered, in pill-form, to a group of 137 patients over a twelve-week period. The people that received Epidiolex, as the medication was named, ranged between 2 and 26 years old, with an average age of 11. Crucially, all of them had epilepsy that did not respond to conventional treatment methods.
The results were very interesting from a medical perspective. Seizures decreased by an average of 54% overall. Patients with Dravet Syndrome - a branch of epilepsy in which seizures are most commonly triggered by hot temperatures and fever - saw a 63% decrease overall. Patients who suffer from Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome - a type of epilepsy prevalent in children between the ages of 2 and 6 years old - saw their seizures reduce, on average by 66.7%.
A group of patients who were also taking an anti-seizure medication known as Clobozam saw a marked improvement in the number of convulsive seizures when it was combined with Epidiolex. Just 14 of the original 137 experienced no change and, crucially, the side-effect most experienced was mild sleepiness (among 21% of patients). To put it another way, the CBD treatment produced an overwhelmingly positive result.
CBD and Epilepsy - What lies ahead?
While the study is viewed as a good step in establishing CBD as a safe and effective epilepsy treatment, there do remain a few sceptics. CBD proved that it can be effective against treatment-resistant Epilepsy, but relatively little is known about exactly how it achieves this. A lot is yet to be discovered when it comes to CBD and Epilepsy.
Researchers right here in the US are working to address these limitations. Placebo and blind treatment tests are part of an ongoing campaign to establish CBD as a reliable treatment method for epilepsy sufferers.
So, as per usual, we’re waiting for some old dudes in lab coats to get a move on. The evidence is out there but CBD cannot get the green light as an official treatment until they’ve rummaged through the proverbial undergrowth and checked there’s nothing nasty hiding in there.
At the very least, epilepsy appears to be just one of the many conditions which can pin its hopes on a new treatment method. One that is low-risk, affordable, devoid of psychoactive side-effects and available for immediate online delivery on GreenRush.
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