Cannabidiol (CBD) And the Impact on Epilepsy
While there are now many varieties of medical treatments available for epilepsy, living with the fear of a seizure still haunts many sufferers. This fear can restrict parts of day-to-day life such as driving, or having children, however there is now something available to drastically reduce the risk of such seizures, and allow people with epilepsy to relax and continue living their lives to the full. That solution is Cannabidiol, also known as CBD.
What is Cannabidiol?
Cannabdiol, or CBD, is a component found in marijuana, and one many cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. This specific component stands out as being non-psychoactive, meaning the user does not experience a high. Because of this, attention has shifted to CBD, as it is truly medical, from tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the cannabinoid that was a previously being researched, which does cause a high and also produces side effects such as the munchies. For the sake of vanity, health, and day to day functioning, most users of this treatment would appreciate avoiding a weight gain, or experiencing any of the paranoia or excitability which can come with cannabis use. Instead, CBD causes only positive effects on the body. The amount of THC in the plant that the CBD is extracted from is what classifies the substance, with lower levels of THC being considered hemp, rather than marijuana. The use of hemp oil could therefore be prolific in the future, as scientists are working on growing strains of the cannabis plant with higher quantities of CBD, and less THC. Thus hemp oil, rather than medical marijuana, could be being used in the near future to treat epilepsy.
How Does CBD affect Epilepsy?
Cannabis was an acknowledged anticonvulsant in ancient societies such as Rome, China, and Greece, and was even regularly prescribed by American doctors prior to the 1937 ban. Seizures are caused by a brain disorder, which affects the body, while CBD, THC, or cannabis generally, calms this part of the brain, thus resulting in fewer seizures. Much remains to be learned about how this works exactly, as so far different mixes, some more CBD, some more a mix of CBD and THC have worked for different people. However, what is known is that the many negative side effects from prescribed medication make life difficult to live normally, and taking a whole plethora of medicines to counteract the side effects also isn’t healthy. And living with the risk of a grand mal seizure, or any seizure, can lead to anxiety, depression, and an inability to hold down a job. So while there may be some gaps in knowledge regarding using Cannabidiol specifically for epilepsy, scientists do know it’s completely safe. One well known research program focused on a young girl with Dravet syndrome, who was experiencing up to fifty seizures a day. Having tried cannabis based components, she now has 2-3 nocturnal seizures per month – a drastic reduction – and has also been weaned off all other medication. Many people would agree that the option of taking only one medication – which is not synthetic, and has no side effects is preferable to adjusting mountains of pills they need to take every day. While there are reports of risks regarding long term cannabis use, it comes down to a choice – do the risks of long term cannabis use sound better or worse than a life fearing the next seizure, or battling crippling side effects?
Can I trust Cannabis?
While much research in still ongoing, the tentative studies that have been conducted so far show a drastic result in the number of seizures participants of the studies experience. Reliable sources such as the New England Journal of Medicine and the American Academy of Neurology have been conducting research, and continue to do so based on the positive results they’ve found so far. The FDA has now authorised these studies for certain categories of patients, so there is absolutely nothing backstreet or illegal about seeking out this treatment. There are also few risks with trying this method, as the CBD component from cannabis does not trigger any of the negative responses typically triggered by the drug, which is why it’s likely to be classed more like a hemp oil. In fact, even the studies that couldn’t definitively state that using CBD reduced seizures, could say that there were no negative side effects experienced during the test. While this is good news, the better news is that many studies show a reduce in seizures between 30 and 50%, particularly on kinds of epilepsy that are harder to treat like Dravet syndrome. There’s no addiction, no paranoia, no over-excitement, and as this isn’t a synthetic chemical, it can’t be patented by pharmaceutical companies.
In short, there is nothing to lose in trying out CBD as a way to reduce epileptic seizures.