Cannabis and treatment-resistant epilepsy

By Spencer Brooks

Did you know that your brain runs on electricity? 

The idea of electrical currents inside your head may be strange, but it’s true: as you sit here reading this, you have millions of electrical impulses dancing across your brain. Every thought you have and movement you make is guided by your brain’s electrical activity [*]. 

Most of the time, your brain’s electrical activity works perfectly. But in some cases, people experience a medical condition called epilepsy -- recurrent seizures caused by sudden, uncontrollable electrical disturbances in the brain [*].

Epilepsy can be difficult to treat, but in the last few years, researchers have discovered that CBD -- an active ingredient in cannabis -- is excellent at helping to control and prevent seizures, especially in patients with treatment-resistant epilepsy [*].

Cannabis, CBD, and epilepsy

Epilepsy comes in a variety of different forms, and some of them can be quite tricky to manage since about 30-40% of epileptic patients don’t respond to standard drug treatment [*], and for a long time, doctors were at a loss when it came to relieving treatment-resistant epilepsy [*]. 

Fortunately, with the legalization of medical cannabis, treatment options are evolving. In 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved oral cannabidiol (CBD) -- a compound found in cannabis -- for treatment-resistant epilepsy. Their approval came after extensive research found that CBD is good at controlling seizures in cases where pharmaceuticals fall short. Here are a few examples:

  • A recent clinical trial found that daily CBD decreased treatment-resistant seizures by an average of 36.5% [*]. It’s worth noting that there’s more to the story than just the average: some patients saw a complete stop to their seizures, while other patients saw little to no improvement [*].
  • Patients with Dravet Syndrome -- a type of severe epilepsy triggered by hot temperatures -- saw a 71% decrease in seizures and reported significant quality of life improvements after taking a 100:1 mix of CBD:THC [*]. 
  • Another study of Dravet Syndrome found that 43% of patients reduced their seizure activity by at least half after taking CBD [*].
  • CBD may also be good for Lennox-Gastaut syndrome -- severe epilepsy characterized by daily or near-daily seizures. Patients with Lennox-Gastaut who added CBD to their existing epilepsy treatment saw an additional 40% decrease in seizure activity [*]. Another study of similar design found a 43% decrease in seizures [*].

Is CBD good for all types of epilepsy?

It’s worth mentioning that CBD seems to work very well for some people with epilepsy and not as well for others. Several studies have revealed a split in the results, where some patients have a complete stop in seizures, other patients have a significant reduction in seizures, and still other patients show little to no improvement after taking CBD [*].

Researchers still aren’t sure how CBD works to help control seizures, but they suspect that genetics play a role in how epilepsy patients respond to CBD, and could explain why it works like magic for some people and does next to nothing for others [*]. 

Should you try CBD for epilepsy?

If you have epilepsy, consider talking to your doctor about CBD. Don’t start using CBD without a consultation; epilepsy is a serious medical condition, and you need professional medical guidance to help you figure out the right dosage, how CBD may interact with other epilepsy drugs, and so on. 

If you do decide to try CBD for epilepsy, you’ll need a Medical Document. Fortunately, it’s easier to get one than ever before: you can talk to a healthcare professional online and find out today whether medical cannabis is right for you. 

When buying CBD, make sure that your source lists the exact amounts of CBD. Some “CBD products” contain just enough CBD to legally list it, but not enough to actually make a difference. Buy your CBD from a trusted legal cannabis provider that provides cannabinoid breakdowns on all products, so you know you’re getting the amount of CBD your doctor suggests.