Medical Marijuana and Epilepsy

medical marijuana for epilepsy


Following changes in the law, medical marijuana has become more readily available than ever before. Patients are now allowed to use medical marijuana as a treatment option for various chronic illnesses and conditions. 

The entire plant (weed) has medicinal properties and you can chew it or smoke it depending on how you like to use it. Medical marijuana can also refer to various chemicals extracted from the plant like CBD and THC. These extracts are formulated into capsules, oil, and gummies.

Medical marijuana or cannabis can help manage the symptoms of epilepsy. Seizures caused by epilepsy are among the reasons why we have medical marijuana for treating the symptoms of this condition.

What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological conditions. It cuts across all ages and demographics, and it affects both men and women. 

The condition occurs due to an abnormal surge in electrical activity in the brain. This results in seizures, and the patient is unable to control their body functions for a limited period. In some cases, the patient may become unconscious and lose awareness of their surroundings.

Not all cases of epileptic seizures are the same. Some patients experience severe seizures that involve twitching all over the body, falling, and losing consciousness while others pass out just for a few seconds or minutes before regaining control. Then again, some patients have nocturnal seizures that occur while they sleep. 

One point worth mentioning is that a single seizure does not mean that the person has epilepsy. An individual should go for assessment if they experience at least two seizures that are not linked to external factors.

Management of epilepsy does not have to change from seizure to seizure since patients have the same kind of seizure repeatedly. Treatment options normally involve medication or surgery, but the success of these options depends on the severity of the conditions. 

In some instances, seizures might dissipate and the patient will become better over time with exposure to certain medications. Some patients, especially children, may outgrow the condition but others may need to depend on medication for the rest of their lives as they try to manage the illness.

Does Medical Marijuana Help Treat Epileptic Seizures?

Marijuana contains two active compounds, including CBD and THC. These cannabinoids work in the body by slowing down the transmission of pain signals to the brain. Since THC is psychoactive, most research on cannabis as a treatment option for epilepsy focuses on CBD. The study points out that CBD works by slowing down pain signals and altering the entire messaging system in the brain.

Nonetheless, research on mice shows that CBD is not 100 percent effective in treating seizures. The compound reduces seizures in some cases of epilepsy while it is not as effective in other cases. However, different strains of marijuana have varying potency levels hence the variable results. The different results could also be attributed to the method of consumption. Apparently, CBD oil is the safest and most effective way to use cannabis for the management of epileptic seizures.

FDA Approval and Studies Behind Cannabis for Epilepsy

The FDA approved the use of pharmaceutical-grade CBD known as Epidiolex to treat epilepsy based on three trials that involved 516 epileptic patients. The trials established that Epidiolex was highly effective in treating two types of epilepsy that are treatment-resistant. The two problematic variations of epilepsy that are resistant to drugs include Lennox Gaustat and Dravet Syndrome. 

According to the trials, patients who took Epidiolex had fewer seizures compared to patients who took a placebo. This cannabis treatment is highly recommended for children but it can also work in adults.

Side Effects and Possible Risks of Medical Marijuana for Epilepsy

Not all patients are the same and all types of drugs, whether natural or not, may pose some risks or cause side effects. The main side effects associated with Epidiolex include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Rash
  • Drowsiness
  • Increased liver enzymes
  • Sleeplessness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Reduced immunity

Final Thoughts

While research is still ongoing on the use of weed to treat seizures, it is clear that medical marijuana may help reduce the symptoms of epilepsy. The discovery of terpenes can make a difference in unlocking how weed can help manage epilepsy. If you decide to use medical marijuana to treat seizures, then avoid THC since it is a psychoactive compound that might cause more seizures. Always go for CBD oil since it helps prevent pain and alters the brain’s messaging system, thus reducing seizures.