Seizures can range from a minor convulsion to more severe convulsions which can be life-threatening. A variety of triggers including biological and psychological, can induce these episodes. Biological origins of seizures are typically treated with a range of anti-seizure medications. More than half of these patients experience no relief from their first medication and some don’t patients are treatment resistant.
New research into the chemical compounds found in cannabis prove that cannabidiol (CBD), a non-hallucinogenic compound, is effective at reducing the amount of seizures in people with epilepsy, and in some cases, completely eliminate these painful symptoms.
Cannabis Helps With Treatment-Resistant Forms of Epilepsy
When about one-third of patients don’t experience relief with any existing anti-seizure medications, these patients begin to search for alternative treatment options that are more effective. Seizures brought on by epilepsy can become so severe that they can cause even more damage to the brain and possibly lead to sudden death, if left untreated.
Lancet Neurology published a study in 2015 with 214 participants from the ages of 2 to 26 who experienced treatment-resistant epileptic seizures. When these patients took CBD during the entirety of the study, their seizures decreased by an average of 54 percent. When used in conjunction with anti-seizure medication Onfi, they experienced even more seizure relief. 2 percent of these patients experienced complete seizure relief.
Cannabis Reduces Seizures in Dravet Syndrome Patients
Dravet syndrome is one specific form of epilepsy that is generally treatment-resistant and has a mortality rate of 20 percent by the age of 20. The New England Journal of Medicine published a study that tested the effects of CBD against the seizures in 120 children from the ages of 2 to 18 who had Dravet syndrome.
While the placebo group showed very little improvement, those that took CBD along with their regular treatment saw a reduction in the amount of seizures they had. 43 percent of patients who took CBD experienced a drop in seizures episodes by half or more. 5 percent found that CBD completely eliminated their seizures, compared to none in the placebo group. About 8 percent of parents had to withdraw their children from the study due to the side effects brought on by the drug interactions.
Other Causes of Seizures Alleviated By Cannabis
Seizures don’t necessarily indicate that a person has epilepsy. Seizures can be brought on by a variety of trauma-inducing factors including:
- Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar)
- Alcohol Withdrawal
- Antidepressants, Antibiotics, and Pain Medication
- Sleep Deprivation
Cannabis has been shown to reduce anxiety levels (with low doses of THC), treat inflammation, reduce pain sensitivity, work as a sleep aid, treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms, and blood sugar control, all of which can trigger seizures.
Research into how the cannabinoids in cannabis can help reduce seizures is scarce. The exact mechanism that shows how compounds like CBD alleviate convulsions is not known yet. Coupled with side effects due to CBD’s interaction with other medication, cannabis should only be considered as a last resort. The risks of experiencing severe side effects are low at best and can decrease if organic cannabis is used in alternative treatments.