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Refractory Epilepsy Overview
Epilepsy impacts well over one million people in the United States with some estimates reaching close to three million. Epilepsy is the term used when a patient repeatedly has seizures on a continual basis. Oftentimes, there is not a clear cause. Someone having a seizure might start uncontrollably shaking, black out, or become very still and unaware of where they are. Almost a third of those affected cannot find relief from debilitating seizures through traditional medicines. Cannabis has been studied as a possible treatment for diseases and ailments such as neuropathy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, PTSD, and schizophrenia.
Many have also wondered if cannabis could be a solution in treating these patients with refractory epilepsy, or epilepsy untreatable though other pharmacological means. This type of epilepsy is also sometimes called uncontrolled, intractable, or drug-resistant. Now there is a study just released in the journal Epilepsy and Behavior which investigated this question and found that cannabis reduced frequency of seizures in 86% of refractory epilepsy patients.
The Results – Details
Scientific investigators Dustin Sulak, Russell Saneto, and Bonnie Goldstein used a sample of 272 refractory epilepsy patients in two US states where medical marijuana is legal and found 10% had no more seizures, 44% had a medium to large reduction in seizures, and 32% had a small to medium reduction. Just 14% found no relief from seizures with the cannabis treatment, but one other positive side effect of improved alertness was noted. Overall, it is suggested that cannabis could be effective in treating refractory epilepsy.
One of the additional highlights of the study, and one reason further research is necessary, is that there was a non-linear dose-response relationship between cannabinoids and the seizures. This means that increasing cannabinoids may not result in additional reduction of seizures. You know the idea that if one is good for you, two must be better? This is not always the case. One goal of future study would be to determine the ideal dose to achieve the maximum positive effects.
CBD Cannabidiol in Other Seizure Studies
Most of the patients in the study used cannabis that enriched with CBD or cannabidiol. According to CBD oil in the UK, CBD is the main active compound in hemp and marijuana but it will not leave you with a high like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) because it does not have any psychoactive properties. Other studies have also found CBD was an effective treatment for seizures. One Australian study found 90% of adults and 71% of children reported reduced seizures when using cannabis. Another study by Dr. Saul Garza Morales found a 50% reduction in seizures for 84% of his sample of 39 children.
Dr. Carlos Aguirre-Velazquez found an 81.3% decrease of convulsions in children who used CBD, with no THC, who had refractory epilepsy. A full 51% reported a significant decrease and 16% reported no seizures at all. In this study, there were no negative, or adverse, effects reported.