In June 2018, a brand of CBD was approved for the treatment of epilepsy by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The drug is known as Epidiolex, and it’s indicated for the treatment of Dravet syndrome and seizures in Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS). Both of these conditions are rarer developmental disorders that are particularly difficult to treat. Epidiolex has been approved for both adults and children who are over the age of two.
There are an estimated 50 million people around the world who are living with epilepsy – a neurological condition that consists of recurring seizures. This makes epilepsy one of the most common neurological disorders worldwide. It’s a condition that makes daily tasks such as caring for children, driving, or maintaining a job difficult. In the most severe cases, the patient’s quality of life may become so low that they experience anxiety or clinical depression in anticipation of the next seizure.
For about a third of the population, epilepsy drugs don’t work very well for their condition. Unfortunately, hard-to-treat forms of epilepsy are often associated with an increase in the risk of premature death. Anecdotal evidence has suggested that CBD may help some of these patients to control their seizures and potentially save their lives. In this article, we will explore what epilepsy is, how CBD could treat it, and what medical research says.
Overview of Epilepsy
Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disorder. It can affect people of all ages, and it means the same thing as “seizure disorders.” It’s a condition that is characterized by unpredictable seizures, and it can also cause other health problems. It’s a spectrum condition that has a wide range of seizure types which vary from person to person.
Epilepsy is a chronic disorder, of which the hallmark is recurrent, unprovoked seizures. If a person has two unprovoked seizures or one unprovoked seizure with the likelihood of more, that wasn’t caused by some reversible and known medical condition like very low blood sugar or alcohol withdrawal, they will be diagnosed with epilepsy.
The seizures that result because of epilepsy may be related to family tendency or brain injury, but the cause is often completely unknown. It’s important to understand that the term “epilepsy” doesn’t indicate anything about what causes a person’s seizures or their severity. A lot of people who have epilepsy suffer from more than one type of seizure and could also have other symptoms of neurological issues. Sometimes family history, EEG (Electroencephalogram), clinical history, and outlook are similar to a group of people who have epilepsy. In these situations, the condition can be defined as a specific epilepsy syndrome.
While the symptoms of a seizure can affect any part of the body, the electrical episodes that produce these symptoms occur in the brain. The location of the episode, how much of the brain it affects, how it spreads, and how long it takes, all have extreme effects. These factors are what determines the character of a seizure and the impact that it has on an individual.
Seizures are the main symptom of epilepsy, but symptoms will differ from person to person according to seizure type. There are two main kinds of seizures: Generalized and focal/partial seizures. Generalized seizures affect the whole brain, while partial seizures affect just one part of the brain. Anyone could develop epilepsy, but it is more common in older adults and young children. Also, it occurs slightly more in males than females.
There isn’t a cure for epilepsy, but it can be managed with some medications, strategies, and of course, CBD.
How and Why CBD Could Help in the Treatment of Epilepsy
CBD has incredible anticonvulsant properties. These properties perform by working on different targets, which are glutamate receptor antagonists, calcium ion channels, the GATA system, sodium ion channels, and receptor agonists in the brain. Anticonvulsants can affect the neurotransmitters that are responsible for sending messages or may bind themselves to the neurons. This is done to change the activity of the cell by shifting how ions flow into and out of the neurons.
CBD links to receptors that are found in the brain and work against the pain that relates to conditions that are aggravated by epilepsy. Merely by coming into contact with the receptors, they help to limit the transmission of pain sensors. CBD also works with other kinds of sensors found in the brain and has similar anti-inflammatory properties to NSAIDs. Unlike recreational drugs, CBD doesn’t play any role in the user’s psychological functioning.
For now though, how exactly CBD works to treat epilepsy is unknown. However, there are studies that suggest that some of the components of CBD that are used to treat inflammation are the conclusive factor behind this fascinating development. Other studies have found that CBD is also helpful in managing seizures, rather than only decreasing the risk of them.
Three out of ten people who have been diagnosed with epilepsy haven’t found conventional medication to be of any use to their condition. This is why it makes sense to at least try CBD if you are looking to alleviate signs of impending epileptic seizures, since it’s proven to decrease the harmful symptoms that come with this debilitating condition.
Medical Findings: Effects of Cannabinoids and CBD on Epilepsy
A study that was done in 2010 and published in The New England Journal of Medicine reported that there’s a positive correlation between CBD and seizure reductions. The study involved 120 children and teenagers who have Dravet Syndrome, a rare genetic epileptic disorder. Dravet syndrome is characterized by ongoing and prolonged seizures. It’s a disorder that is often severe and usually responds poorly to prescription medication.
As part of the study, the participants were divided into two groups. One group received CBD while the other got a placebo. Over a period of 14 weeks, the group who had received the CBD experienced a significant reduction in the number of seizures.
The children who were given CBD saw an average of 5.9 seizures per month which was a substantial decrease from 12.4 per month. The group of children who got the placebo showed a minimal difference at 14.1 per month compared to 14.9. The principal investigator for the study even stated that the research clearly established CBD as an effective anti-seizure drug for epilepsy.
Another study that was done at the Children’s Hospital Colorado also reported on the therapeutic value of CBD in the reduction of epileptic seizures. Those patients who suffered from epilepsy were given a cannabis extract that contained CBD. Researchers found that 57% of patients saw a reduction in seizures, while 33% experienced a seizure reduction of 50% or more.
More recently, a study done in Mexico in 2017 looked into the efficacy of CBD in patients with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome. The study involved 38 patients. After using a pure CBD oil, researchers found that 86% of patients experienced a 50% reduction in motor seizures, and more than half of participants reported a 75% reduction in overall seizures. There were 13% of participants who reported a complete remission of seizures.
Medical Benefits of Using CBD to Treat Epilepsy
People who suffer from epilepsy can take CBD and notice a smaller risk of seizures occurring after each use. CBD is able to reduce or reverse some of the effects that are key contributors to epileptic seizures.
CBD also enables users to sleep better at night, which is something that those who suffer from epilepsy may struggle with. In addition, CBD helps to alleviate fatigue and can be used as a good alternative to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – which usually come with side effects that include stroke and heart attack. NSAIDs aren’t really ideal for people who have a history of epileptic seizures. CBD is a much safer option.
How to Take CBD for Epilepsy
Most patients who are using CBD for epilepsy opt for sublingual tinctures, oral concentrates, oral capsules, or they vape it. CBD to THC ratios that have been shown to be effective is those that have CBD dominant ratios such as 20:1 and 30:1 (CBD:THC).
Epidiolex is the most well-known form of CBD medication for seizures. It comes in liquid form (oral solution), and the recommended dosage is based on weight. The effective dose, however, was found to be 10 mg per day which is typically divided into two doses per day. It is usually started at a dose of 2.5 mg twice per day and then increased to the target dose after a week. You can increase it up to 20 mg per day if necessary, but just be aware of increased side effects. Anti-seizure medicines should be taken at scheduled times on the regular, without skipping or mixing doses.
Final Thoughts on CBD for Epilepsy
The research clearly shows that CBD has a positive impact when it comes to treating epilepsy. Patients who suffer from epilepsy may gain significant benefit by using CBD to decrease and prevent the incidence of seizures.