Cannabis continues to become more popular and is being used to help with various health conditions. The name cannabis is the Latin name that most botanists and pharmaceutical companies use whereas marijuana is used to describe the leaves and female flower of the cannabis plant. Medical cannabis uses the whole plant or chemicals in it to treat health conditions.
The use of cannabis to help treat epilepsy and other neurological conditions has been studied for numerous years now. “Early evidence from laboratory studies, anecdotal reports, and small clinical studies over a number of years suggest that cannabidiol (CBD) could potentially help control seizures. Research on CBD has been hard to do and taken time due to federal regulations and limited access to cannabidiol. There are also many financial and time constraints. In recent years, a number of studies have shown the benefit of specific plant-based CBD product in treating specific groups of people with epilepsy who have not responded to traditional therapies” (Epilepsy Foundation). Back on June 25, 2018, the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Epidiolex, a CBD oral solution, for treatment of seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and and Dravet syndrome. Epidiolex is a purified (> 98% oil-based) CBD extract from the cannabis plant produced by Greenwich Biosciences. Epidiolex now represents another type of medication option for children and is also the first FDA approved medication to treat patients with Dravet syndrome.
Researchers have studied Epidiolex in controlled studies. These studies used a control group with some patients using different doses while some used a placebo. This study was considered a “gold standard” study meaning that the researchers did not know which patients were getting CBD and which were getting the placebo. A summary of the Epidiolex clinical trials can be found here. More trials surrounding CBD clinical trials are active and recruiting patients. A list of these trials is also available.
As always, it is important to remember that medical marijuana can have general side effects. Often times, people mistakenly believe that using medical marijuana is 100% safe because it is a plant or the oil comes from a plant. Medical interactions can take place and it is always necessary to discuss using CBD with your medical provider. There are some drug-to-drug interactions that have been revealed during the study of CBD and epilepsy syndromes. From the studies that have already taken place, we know that “People who had increases in their liver enzymes to a level three times or more than normal were also on Valporic Acid (VPA), a commonly used anti-seizure medication. The levels of VPA were not increased when taken with CBD. It is thought that a part or byproduct of VPA may interact with CBD when it is broken down. This may put some people at increased risk for liver issues. As Clozabam (Onfi) is broken down, a major component of the drug appears to interact with CBD in some people. This may be the cause of tiredness that is seen in some people who are on both CBD and Onfi” (Epilepsy Foundation).