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Medicinal marijuana use for epilepsy is in the early stages, and whilst it may not be appropriate for everyone, it certainly seems to have a place in the treatment of epilepsy.

There are many different types of epilepsy, and they range in severity from minor seizures once in a while to major seizures regularly. Some forms of epilepsy can also involve multiple seizures a day, which is not only hugely debilitating, but physically harmful as well. Epilepsy is generally treated with a regime of medicines, and it can take quite a bit of time and experimentation to find the right combination for the particular variation of epilepsy. For some people, medicines are just not enough to control the terrible affliction of multiple seizures.

What Is Medical Marijuana?

There have been multiple research studies performed on the use of medicinal marijuana for a number of medical issues, including cancer, fibromyalgia, other chronic pain disorders and now also epilepsy. The issue of using marijuana has created a lot of discussion and controversy in the community, and in governments. Medical health authorities have been questioned over the ethical use of what was previously considered a recreational drug.

What many people don’t understand is that there are two main components of marijuana:

  • Cannabidiol (CBD)
  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
The ingredient that causes the ‘high’ when smoking marijuana is the THC, whereas the medicinal value lies with the CBD. The production of medicinal marijuana involves removing the THC and leaving the CBD that provides certain positive effects on some systems in the body.

Marijuana and Epilepsy

Research including clinical and laboratory studies have been undertaken for several years, to investigate the effect of medical marijuana on seizures. The research has been compounded due to the various governmental restrictions and regulations. Of the studies that have been completed, although there have been no definitive positive results, clinical trials have shown a great improvement in the frequency of seizures in children with refractory epilepsy.

A product called Epidiolex which is derived from CBD has been approved by the FDA for use by some epilepsy clinics. It is directed to be used as a compassionate treatment for only a small number of people at each clinic so that the results can be closely monitored. A study of the 213 people who were able to be given Epidiolex showed remarkable results. Of these, 137 were given the drug to take over a 12 week period, and the range of ages of recipients was from 2 – 26 years.  Those selected had failed to achieve appropriate treatment levels with regular epilepsy medications.

Of the 137 participants, there was an average of 54% seizure reduction. The reduction of seizures lasted for more than 24 weeks, provided they continued to take the Epidiolex. For study participants who suffered from atonic seizures, there was an average decrease of 66.7% of seizures. Also of note, is that those who were also taking a drug called Clobazam for the treatment of their epilepsy showed an even greater reduction in seizures. It is believed that this is due to a favorable interaction between the 2 drugs.

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